Having a child that wanders can be terrifying and stressful. This Autism Elopement and Wandering Kit for Families is designed to give you some peace of mind and help you develop a plan and an environment that is best for your family.
What Does Elopement Mean?
No, we aren’t talking about running off to be secretly married. Elopement is the act of leaving a safe area. This is a very common tendency for autistic children. Data done in a 2011 study by the Interactive Autism Network showed that nearly half of all autistic children wander and bolt from safe places.
Dangers of Elopement
When a child wanders or “bolts” it puts them at risk for injury, trauma, and even death. The study showed that one-third of children who elope have a communication barrier that affects their ability to communicate information such as their name, address, and phone number. Even autistic children who are verbal can struggle to communicate that information. It is also very common for children with autism to wander towards traffic or water which puts them at risk for a traffic injury or drowning.
Effect of Wandering on Families
I can’t much speak to the effect that elopement has had on other families, but I can share what it has done to our family. My daughter with ASD is now eight and in those eight years has wandered multiple times. There are four that stand out vividly in my memory. She has wandered from home, from school, and out in public. It has prevented us from big crowds or attending events outside of the home, it has disrupted sleep, and has caused so much anxiety and stress. I cannot even put into words what it is like to get a phone call from your child’s school saying that they took off running down one of the busiest roads during lunch, or to wake up in the middle of the night to your child, not in the house. Stressful doesn’t even cover it.
How to Prevent Elopement
If your child wanders seek out help from a mental health specialist and their pediatrician. This is the very first step that you need to make in protecting your child. These are the people who will help you understand why your child wanders and help you develop a plan specific to your child’s needs.
The next step is to create a file that has everything you will need in case your child elopes from home. You can find a printable for this below. I print out two, one stays at home and the other stays in the glove box of my car.
Another thing that you can do is set up an environment at home that will protect your child and teach them to make safe choices.
Autism Wandering and Elopement Kit for Families
The following items below are what we have found to be the most useful in creating a safe environment for my kids. These tools will not stop elopement, they are there for a security and teaching measure.
VTech’s VM343 Video Monitor (buy here)
We have been looking for the right video monitor for our family now for two years. This video monitor is the only one that I have found that meets every single one of my families need, so much so that I have written and entire post on it. If you want to learn more about this product visit our review on VTech’s VM343 Baby Monitor.
Door/Window Magnet Triggered Alarms (buy here)
These Magnet Triggered Alarms will sound every single time the door or window they are attached to opens. While that can be tiresome, they are a fantastic tool for knowing exactly when your child opens a door or a window. These alarms are extremely affordable and easy to install.
GPS Watch (buy here)
There are a ton of different varieties of these out on the market today. Some things to look for when deciding on what type of GPS Watch fits your families need are: waterproof, locking clasp, SOS alarm, compatibility with technology you already have at home, and distance monitoring. One thing that I discovered and something to consider for distance monitoring is to pay attention to the size of your home. For ours, I had synced the distance to my cell phone and was turning it on at night. This worked beautifully unless I walked into the laundry room or out to the garage – then an alarm would blare loud enough to wake the house. So, make sure you give it a good test before use. The last thing with these is to make sure they are GPS and not Bluetooth. In the past, we have tried Bluetooth and it was not difficult to loose connection.
SmartKids ID (buy here)
These are available as a bracelet or a shoe tag and are absolutely brilliant. Instead of being written in ink, that can be worn off, each bracelet has a QR code that can be linked to a customizable online profile. These are waterproof and come with a 24/7 Help Hotline.
Printable Wandering Packet
These printables are free to print below and contain information that you should have on hand in case your child wanders. As a mom who has had a child wander, I can tell you that it is hard to think clearly when that happens. This packet is meant to help you have all the information you may need in one place so that you don’t need to add more stress to yourself on what you may have forgotten. This packet also includes stop signs which should be printed off and put on doors and windows as a visual aide for your child.
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If you download this free Autism Wandering Kit for Families please share it on social media for other parents to find!