Finding Children Who Wander

A new coalition of six national autism nonprofit organizations has been created to prevent wandering incidents and deaths within the autism community.  The collaboration, Autism Wandering Awareness Alerts Response Education (AWAARE), has launched in a joint effort to raise awareness and provide information to caregivers, law enforcement, school officials and the medical community. Coalition member organizations are AutismOne, Autism Speaks, the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism, the HollyRod Foundation, the National Autism Association (NAA), and Talk About Curing Autism (TACA).

“The AWAARE Collaboration will work to prevent wandering incidents and wandering-related deaths within the autism community through the use of collective organizational resources, and by establishing and monitoring objectives, guidelines, policies, and tools that will promote awareness, education, prevention and safety.”

To help parents and professionals, AWAARE has collected information to help prevent wandering, to recommend responses, to inform first responders, and to inform IEP teams of the dangers.  Please visit their website for details, as well as downloadable forms to prepare for your family.

Did you know that children with Medicaid might qualify for Project Lifesaver under the EPSTD (Early Periodic Screening Treatment and Diagnosis)?  If not, there are other grants that might help—the National Autism Association’s FOUND grant provided the funds for Orange County to begin serving families.  Contact your local police department to see if they have Project Lifesaver or another program to help find people with autism who wander.  Unfortunately, I have not been able to find such a list online; if I do locate one, I’ll post it soon.  Please let me know if you have such a list, and I’ll post the link!

Usually articles about this serious topic include links to news releases about children who have wandered and either been found or not…but I find them too painful to read, frankly.  We all know that having a child wander (regardless of the “child’s” age) is a terrifying event.  My imagination is too active, anyway—don’t need help with that.

If your local Police/Sheriff’s department doesn’t have a program to help wandering children, encourage them to get one!  Does your child have Project Lifesaver, LoJack SafetyNet, or some other program?  Does it work/do you like it?  Tell your story…


2 Responses

  1. Unfortunately the wandering/running is all too common in our community. I agree that the articles are hard to read but we must face that fact that autism can and is deadly. Before I had my little “runner” I could not fathom how a child could possibly 1. escape a locked house and 2. wander away without the parent knowing. The fact is my child is cognitively a 5 year old, physically a 5 year, but has the judgment and impulse control of a 1 year old- this is a dangerous combination. He can very easily put a key in a deadbolt and unlock, quietly leave, close the door behind himself, and bolt (quickly!) He has done this numerous times. We have gotten new locks, that buys us some time until he figures those out. Repeat. We have needed to call the police 4 times to find him.
    He was the first one who got project lifesaver in Orange County- thanks to NAA and Lori Mcilwain. The orange county sheriff’s dept has also done some great fundraising to buy more bracelets and keep the program functioning. I had not heard of medicaid covering this. Currently this is totally free to families but medicaid has not paid for any of it for my son, and I know other kids who have it and don’t have medicaid. But I’d be curious to learn more if they were/are funding it!
    Project Lifesaver doesn’t prevent a child from wandering, it is a locator device, so if he wanders, the police can locate him. In addition to this, we have our son wear a medical alert ID bracelet because other neighbors might catch him and they can just call my phone number that we had engraved on the bracelet.
    Other than watching him EVERY second, 24hr/day, there is no 100% reliable way to prevent the wandering.
    Thanks for posting that site. Very impt information there.

    • Thanks for sharing your story, Kristine. I am so glad that NAA helped bring Project Lifesaver International to Orange County to help your family and others! By the way, I read about EPSTD covering this cost on A Small Miracle’s website–don’t know how easy/hard it is to get it (here’s the link for the article:

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