How to Prevent and Respond to Special Needs Children Who Wander

June 4, 2018 | Abram's Nation

June is National Safety Month. We, at Abram’s Nation, take our kiddos safety VERY seriously and understand how difficult it can be for families with special needs children. Almost half the children on the Autism Spectrum wander or elope – they run away from home, school or other safe place.  Children diagnosed with Smith Magenis Syndrome or Angelman’s Syndrome are also prone to night wondering due to sleep disturbances caused by the genetic disorders. This can be particularly dangerous because their poor communication and social skills as well as low safety awareness.  Children may not be able to hear their name being called during a search. They may be unable to ask for help or don’t understand the dangers of crossing in traffic, engaging with strangers, abandoned buildings and bodies of water due to lack of safety awareness.

For these reasons, parent with special needs children need to be extra vigilant about their safety. With that in mind here are some ways to help.

Prioritize safety. Identify what your child needs to know to be safe and find people and resources to help you teach her or him. Would your child run into the street if you were not there to stop him? Is your child attracted to water? When are you on high alert, actively preventing your child from doing something dangerous? The answers to these questions show you what your child needs to learn.

While we must always protect our children, preventing something dangerous from happening is not the same as teaching safe behavior. What kind of skills does your special-needs child need intensive teaching to learn?

  • To cross the street safely?
  • To learn to swim?
  • To respond to “stop,” “go” and “no”?
  • To recognize personal space and boundaries?
  • To learn any other skills that promote safety and minimize danger?

One option is to add safety goals to your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) at school. Safety needs can be addressed in the IEP and are also ideal for transition plans, so speak up about your concerns at your child’s next IEP meeting.

Address wandering. Talk to your neighbors and let them know about your child’s special needs and the danger of potential wandering. Ask them to help you keep watch, and to contact you right way if they see your child unsupervised. Download a free digitals copy of the Big Red Safety Box, wandering prevention information, from the AWAARE Collaboration at  NAA has created three digital safety toolkits that can be downloaded, Caregiver Toolkit | First Responder Toolkit | Teacher Toolkit The kits includes information and resources, including new options for door alarms and locks.

Being prepared is key when an emergency arises. Having systems in place before a crisis gives parents an advantage to react swiftly with confidence. No matter the child’s special needs, safety always comes first!