Almost half of autistic kids wander from safety
The fear that overtakes a parent when a child wanders away is easily compounded when that child has an autism-spectrum disorder.
A study shows that such behavior occurs more often than in other children, and the hazards can be significant.
In a sample of 1,200 children with autism, 49 percent had wandered, bolted or “eloped” at least once after age 4; 26 percent went missing long enough to cause concern.
Only 13 percent of 1,076 siblings without autism had wandered off at or after age 4, when such behavior typically becomes less common, finds the study in today's Pediatrics. Among children with autism who went missing, 65 percent had close calls with traffic; 24 percent were in danger of drowning.
“Elopement is one of the very few problems in autism that is life-threatening,” said study author Paul Law, a pediatrician and director of the Interactive Autism Network Project (ianproject.com), a national autism database headquartered at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore. “It is probably one of the leading, if not the leading, causes of death in children with autism.”
Among other study findings:
• Elopement attempts peaked at age 5 for kids with autism.
• From 4 to 7, 46 percent of kids with autism bolted, vs. 11 percent of siblings. From 8 to 11, 27 percent did; from 12-17, 12 percent did.
• Children who wandered had more severe autism symptoms and had lower intellectual and communications scores than those who did not.
• The places children bolted from most were their home or another (74 percent), stores (40 percent) and schools (29 percent).
The risks associated with her daughter's elopement behavior led Alison Singer of Scarsdale, N.Y., to install alarms on every door in her house.
From ages 5 to 10, Jodie, now 15, would try to leave in the middle of the night in search of things, from the Chinese restaurant that served her favorite egg rolls to a book she read at a neighbor's two years before.
“It just got into her head that she wanted it, and she'd head out to get it,” said Singer, president of the Autism Science Foundation, one of several groups that funded the study.
The federal government recently created a medical diagnostic code for wandering as a condition of autism, an important first step in efforts to get preventative services, Singer said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Only 3 wolves left at national park on Lake Superior; moose population would skyrocket
- Federal appeals court appears divided on Obama’s immigrant deportation shield
- ‘Moore’s Law’ led to Silicon Valley of computer chips, information age
- SpaceX makes espresso delivery to space station
- Scientists: Oil spill has harmed health of Gulf of Mexico
- Social media makes it difficult for ‘hero’ to stay anonymous
- West Virginia gathering recalls suffering of Bataan Death March
- Fraternity announces ‘legal action’ against Rolling Stone magazine over rape article
- Video of Florida beach assault results in college suspensions for suspects
- Obama to remove Cuba from terror list, a key point in opening embassies
- Navy lieutenant commander pleads guilty in bribery scandal