Autistic Elopement – Rising Concern for Parents

A latest study on children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has revealed that such children are prone to running away from home at least once.

The paper was published in the latest edition of the journal Pediatrics. Dr. Paul A. Law from the Interactive Autism Network has conducted this study and found that as many as 50% of the autistic children exhibit this behavior.

This has proved to be a major concern of parents of children who suffer from ASD.


The Study

Dr. Law set out to establish the significance of this run away behavior among autistic children by investigating over 1200 families that had autistic children. During the research he found that:

  1. 49% of the children falling under ASD attempted to lock themselves in as early as age 4 years, at least once.
  2. 53% of these wandering children were said to have gone missing for long periods causing serious concern in the family.
  3. More than 74% of those who wandered away were doing so from safer places such as homes and schools.
  4. Shopping trips proved expensive for more than 40% of these families as their autistic children went missing from there.
  5. The number of ASD children eloping this way were said to be more in the age group of 4 to 5 years.
  6. While 29% of the families reported that these children tried eloping more than once a day, 35% of the respondents put this frequency at once a week.

Reasons behind Elopement among Children with ASD

The author, Dr. Law says that one of the reasons why these children elope is due to the lack of social and communication skills in them. They do not feel the need to check in with their parents or teachers before they take leave. The problem is autism itself.

As a result most cases require the assistance of police to recover the child. An added risk is that these children lack fear or knowledge of the roads and the vehicles that ply on them. Hence they are at a high risk of being hit by vehicles and sometimes even drowning (if a water body is on their way).

This study has brought to light the fact that elopement is a feature of the condition – ASD and not specific to the individual. Hence it makes the parents, teachers and care givers aware of the chances of such an event happening to them in the future, if it has not happened so far. It shows the importance of stepping up security for these children without making them conscious of it or curtailing their freedom.


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