As a parent of an individual with autism, my biggest fear is that my son will wander from a safe environment and away from his caregiver. According to the CDC, 1 in 44 children and 1 in 88 adults have autism nationally. It is important to create awareness of the safety concerns associated with autism. Why? Wandering or leaving a safe environment is not uncommon for those with autism or other intellectual disabilities. In fact:
People with autism are three times more likely to die from injury than a neurotypical peer. For individuals under age 15, it is 40 times more likely.
- When a person with ASD wanders, nearly half of all fatalities occur in under one hour.
- 20% of wandering/elopements occur from the place of residence. Risk is higher when traveling, visiting relatives, when engaged in outdoor recreation or in a vehicle.
- 40% of wandering/elopements take place when transitioning activities or locations.
Drowning is the leading cause of premature death in autism. 71% of all deaths for children with ASD between 2011 and 2017 were accidental drownings. They are 160 times more likely to drown than nondisabled peers, and 76% occur in natural bodies of water.
As a parent of an autistic son, these statistics are terrifying. Virtually all autism parents have had experiences where their child got away, be it for a moment or for several hours. Awareness of this issue is of utmost importance. If you encounter a person with autism or intellectual disability who has become separated from their caregiver, give this person space, use simple sentences with a kind voice, avoid quick movements and contact local law enforcement.
Ascendigo Autism Services has developed training materials to educate and assist first responders if a person with autism wanders from a safe environment, and I am immensely grateful that our local law enforcement has these resources. Ascendigo has also developed materials that will help caregivers and schools implement safety measures. Thank you to the Roaring Fork Valley Community for its commitment to keeping our children safe.
Kim Birch, Glenwood Springs, Colorado
Posted to the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent
July 20, 2022