Wednesday, June 19, 2024

How Many Individuals With Autism Display Elopement Behavior

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Use A Gps Tracking Device

What to know about repetitive behaviors in autism

Consider a GPS tracker such as the one made by AngelSense. A GPS tracker can locate your child in the case he/she goes missing/wanders off. There are several other brands which you can find in a Google search. AngelSense has a good reputation within the Special Needs community. Find out more about how GPS Trackers like AngelSense work in the video below.

Make Sure Your House Is Secure

You can ask a locksmith, security company, or contractor to make your home as escape-proof as possible. Some examples of added safety features can include dead-bolt locks that require a key on each side, an alarm that goes off when the door opens, placing locks above your childs reach, or having a locked fence around your house.

Disruptive Behavior And Autism Spectrum Disorder

Disruptive Behavior and Autism Spectrum Disorder

Individuals diagnosed with autism often engage in disruptive behavior. Forms of disruptive behavior that can occur in individuals with autism include, self-injurious behavior , aggression, and property destruction, among others.

Behavioral Treatment for Disruptive Behavior in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Programs utilizing the principles of Applied Behavioral Analysis that focus on increasing skills in children with autism have become quite common. In addition to increasing adaptive skills, ABA can be used to decrease disruptive behavior. There is a large body of research that has shown ABA can be effective at assessing and treating disruptive behavior in individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities. It should be noted that ABA is a science rather than a specific treatment and it can be used to analyze a broad range of behaviors in individuals with and without autism.

Focus on Function. When using ABA to assess disruptive behavior in individuals with autism, the focus is on the function of disruptive behavior rather than topography . For example, when assessing a child with autism who engages in aggression, the goal is to identify how the aggression serves the child rather than on what the aggression looks like .

Disruptive Behaviors Treated with ABA

Tips for Parents

Helpful Websites

  • Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis

Read Also: Do Kids Outgrow Autism

Wandering Off: Understand Elopement In Autistic Individuals

Because autistic individuals often have difficulties with communication and awareness of their own safety, this can be particularly dangerous. Autistic individuals may have trouble communicating their name and address, they may not be able to provide contact information for their caregivers, and they may not recognize environmental dangers. Additionally, children are often drawn to water and drowning is one of the leading causes of death in children with ASD.

Surveys show that nearly half of children diagnosed with autism between the ages of 4 and 10 have tried to elope. Of those who attempted, half were successful and were missing long enough to concern their parents or caregivers. Two out three parents surveyed who called the police reported their wandering child was nearly injured in traffic, while one in three reported near-drowning incidents.

Parents of autistic children who have wandered report these top five reasons for why their children wandered:

  • Enjoyment, running, or exploring
  • To escape an anxious situation
  • Attempts to visit a place of enjoyment
  • Pursuing something of interest
  • To escape unpleasant sensory stimuli

It is especially important to take these precautions into consideration when traveling. A hotel or a rental home may provide opportunities for elopement and wandering that are not typical in the childs home environment.

The CDC advocates a three-tier approach for caregivers and family members:



Teach Safety Skills

Wandering And Elopement: Conceptual Challenges

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Challenges of understanding wandering and elopement in autism begin with the terms commonplace usage. In everyday talk, wandering may denote romanticized images of nomadic travelers, while elopement usually signifies a hasty wedding. As comment: Its difficult to name the behavior because we know so little about it. Is it aimless, or are these individuals trying to reach a place or person? Is it motivated by fear, sensory-sensitivity, boredom, or curiosity? Is the person who wanders scared, joyful, or in a fog? .

As we will show in this article, the ambiguity of the terms wandering and elopement is further reified by parents and professionals contradictory and often opposing views on actions and subjectivities of children with autism. Do these terms denote an intentionality, curiosity, resourcefulness, and appreciation of space and place? Or alternatively, an impulsive, irrational, physiologically-based escape from ones environment? The often elusive nature of the internal world of people with autism in general, and children with autism in particular, is a pressing and weighty problem for parents and caregivers. This challenge is often coupled with another hermeneutic struggle to differentiate whether these behaviors are related to autism or to being a child with a proclivity for exploration.

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How Common Is Wandering Off In Children With Asds

According to a recent survey of parents, nearly half of children with ASDs between the ages of 4 and 10 have tried to elope. This behavior may continue to occur in some older children and even teenagers and adults with ASDs. This is concerning because many individuals with ASDs may not be able to communicate their names, addresses, or phone numbers if they become lost.

Functional Assessment Of Elopement

Functional assessment is used to address many behavior issues and can also be applied to elopement. As in the case of any behavior, data must be collected and evaluated within the context of the display of the behavior in order to understand why it is occurring. Behavior analysts refer to the why of the behavior as the function. In a review of the assessment and treatment of elopement, Dr. Megan Boyle and Dr. Reesha Adamson of Missouri State University found that the most common functions for elopement are:

  • To get away from a place, activity, or person
  • To obtain access to an item, activity, or person
  • To engage in an intrinsically pleasurable activity, such as running
  • To gain attention

Of course, there are challenges to conducting a functional assessment of elopement. It can be difficult to predict and observe, and setting up conditions to test to see if elopement will happen could be dangerous.

One way to identify predictors of elopement is to look at what is going on before it occurs. By reviewing the antecedents to previous incidences of elopement, interventionists and families may gain a clue as to what the individual is seeking or trying to escape. Was the person required to do something they didnt want to do? Have they been denied something that they like and might be going somewhere they think they can find it? These observations may help you understand the individuals motivation.

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Challenges In Severe Autism

According to some researchers, the extreme behaviors seen in severe autism are very often the result of either frustration, sensory overload, or physical pain. Because people with severe autism have such a hard time communicating their needs verbally, they may find expression in behaviors that can be frightening to their caregivers and others.

If the behaviors can’t be addressed or managed, they can actually be dangerous in many cases, it becomes impossible for parents or siblings to live safely with a severely autistic teen or adult.

Manipulation Of Motivational Variables


Manipulating motivational variables is another approach for changing behavior. The idea is to change the current evocative or abative effects in place with respect to a potentially reinforcing stimulus and thereby temporarily alter the reinforcing value of the stimulus and the frequency, magnitude, or intensity of any behavior that has been previously reinforced by that stimulus . For example, when there is an evocative effect , the reinforcing value of the stimulus will increase and the probability of responses that have in the past been followed by that stimulus will temporarily increase and therefore is an establishing operation. When there is an abative effect , in contrast, the reinforcing value of the stimulus will decrease and the probability of responses that have in the past been followed by that stimulus will temporarily decrease and is therefore an abolishing operation.

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Importance Of Understanding Why Elopement Occurs

In order to develop an effective treatment for a students elopement, it is necessary to understand the reason for its occurrence. In order to do so, the teacher must identify the reinforcer maintaining this problematic behavior, which will allow for better prediction of when elopement is and is not likely to occur. Decades of research in the field of applied behavior analysis demonstrates that functional behavior assessments can identify the functional relations responsible for maintaining problematic behavior , thus increasing the likelihood of prescribing an effective, function-based intervention .

Create An Emergency Plan

Emergencies do happen, and its important to have a plan in place to help make sure your child is found quickly. Make an emergency plan that you can share with your childs school, babysitters, and any other caregivers. Detail when to call 911, what to do when the child is found, and any other important information. And always remember to search nearby water and busy streets first, since these can pose such an immediate risk for children.

You may consider getting your child a wearable tracking device in case of emergency. These devices can allow you to track your child on your phone, cutting down on the time it takes to find them. They are available as a lanyard at Amber Alert GPS as a watch at Adiant Mobile and as a belt, shirt, or pouch atAngelSense GPS.

You should also keep up-to-date information cards about your child so that you can distribute it in case of emergency. You can give these to trusted neighbors, caregivers, first responders, and anyone else necessary if your child wanders. This card can include things like:

  • Childs name

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How Being Prepared For Elopement Helps Children With Autism

Its common for children who have autism spectrum disorder to run or wander away from caregivers or secure locations. This is called elopement. Elopement is common in children with autism and can be a traumatic situation for a child and caregivers. Understanding why your child elopes and how to prevent it may help decrease stress and prevent accidental injuries.

Why do children with autism elope?

  • Some children elope to get to desired items or places. For example, a child might elope to get to a favorite toy in a store.
  • Children with autism may find it hard to cope with certain everyday situations and may elope to get away from stresses. For example, a child may elope to get away from a noisy birthday party.
  • Other children elope because they enjoy running or being chased by a caregiver, so they may elope when a caregiver is distracted.

If you are caring for a child who elopes, start a journal to log the instances of elopement, including what she may have been running away from or toward. Identifying common triggers can help you be more prepared to prevent elopement.

How to prevent elopement

The following tips may keep your child from wandering away:

How to reduce harm when your child elopes

Do the following to reduce the chance of harm if your child does elope:

If elopement is a regularly occurring issue for your child, seek assistance from a psychologist or behavior analyst with experience in treating elopement to develop a comprehensive treatment plan.

Additional Information About Wandering Off And Eloping

Positive Behavior Practice

If your child is in school, inform his/her school about the potential for wandering. Share all of these facts and tips with your childs school. Have a discussion with the school team about how to prevent your child from wandering. Create a safety plan in writing with your childs school team and make sure this plan is included in your childs individualized education plan .

In general, make a point to increase awareness about autism and wandering. If people know about it, they are more likely to react to a potential wandering situation.

RESOURCES:Big Red Safety Tool Kit: A Digital Guide for CaregiversThis tool kit from the National Autism Association is designed to provide guidance and support to families with children with autism at-risk of wandering.

The kit contains the following resources:

  • Caregiver Checklist
  • Family Wandering Emergency Plan
  • First-responder profile form.
  • How to Get Tracking Technology In Your Town
  • General Awareness Letter

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Autism Behavior Management Strategies For The Classroom And At Home

Strategies to Prevent or Minimize Challenging Behavior

Most behavior analysts and autism professionals will tell you that the best approach to handle challenging behavior from a child with autism is to prevent it in the first place. For many children with autism, proactive strategiesthose that happen outside of problem behavior have the most significant impact. Among the many proactive behavior management strategies for the classroom and at home, these may be helpful:

Focus on communication skills. So often, parents and teachers become laser-focused on challenging behavior. Yet many of these problems occur because the child lacks the skills needed to communicate effectively. Studies show that boosting the communication skills of a child with ASDeven a small amountcan have monumental differences in all areas. Spend as much time focusing on communication as you do on developing responses to challenging behavior.

Give directions and demands clearly. Given how vital boosting communication skills can be to children with ASD, it becomes even more critical for parents to communicate effectively as well.

Challenging behaviors often result from children with ASD not understanding expectations. Give precise directions, avoid jargon or metaphorical language, and phrase instructions as statements rather than questions. Children with ASD may be easily distracted. Gain their attention before giving a direction as well.

Strategies to Handle Challenging Behavior When It Occurs

Give Your Child/adult A Custom Id Bracelet

On the bracelet, you can include your childs name, phone number, address, etc. You can also state if they are on the autism spectrum, are non-verbal, have allergies, or other relevant medical information. For some children who do not like to wear jewelry, parents have used temporary tattoos to display their childs identifying information.Check out Medical Alert ID Bracelets and SafetyTat Child ID Tattoos!

Also Check: How To Make A Visual Schedule For Autism

What Can Be Done To Decrease Wandering

  • Be aware that wandering can occur anywhere and anytime. Caregivers should be free of distractions when supervising a child with an ASD. Family gatherings or other events may give a false impression of all eyes on a child, but visiting relatives create changes of routine, which can increase risk for elopement. Also remember that children with ASDs who are outside playing may need extra supervision to prevent wandering.

  • Secure your home. This might include installing dead bolts, a home security alarm system, battery-operated alarms on doors and windows, and fencing around your yard.

  • Teach alternative behaviors. If a child is wandering to obtain something preferred or to escape a situation, teach alternative ways to request and access these situations.

  • Alert your neighbors. Knowing your neighbors can help reduce the risk associated with elopement. Consider giving your neighbors information about your child that you think might help in preventing wandering.

Nearly Half Of Children With Autism Wander Or ‘bolt’ From Safe Places

Autism Today: Managing Challenging Behaviors in Children and Adults with Autism
Children with autism are four times more likely to wander than their unaffected siblings.

A new study published October 8 in the journal Pediatrics found that nearly half of children with autism spectrum disorders are reported to wander or “bolt,” and more than half of these children go missing. Led by researchers from the Interactive Autism Network , the nation’s largest online autism research initiative and a project of the Kennedy Krieger Institute, this study provides the most comprehensive estimate of elopement occurrence in a United States community-based sample of more than 1,200 children with ASD.

“Since the launch of IAN, we have heard from families of children with autism that their children often place themselves in danger by wandering or eloping,” says Dr. Paul Law, senior author and director of the IAN Project at the Kennedy Krieger Institute. “These are the first published findings in the U.S. that provide an estimate of the number of children with ASD who not only wander or elope, but go missing long enough to cause real concern.”

Elopement Prevalence

  • 49 percent of children with ASD attempted to elope at least once after age 4.
  • Of those who attempted to elope, 53 percent of children with ASD went missing long enough to cause concern.
  • From age 4 to 7, 46 percent of children with ASD eloped, which is four times the rate of unaffected siblings.
  • From age 8 to 11, 27 percent of affected children elopedcompared with 1 percent of unaffected siblings.

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Know The Function Of Challenging Behaviors

One of the first questions parents want to know about challenging behavior is, Why is my child doing this? In Applied Behavior Analysis, we sort all responses into four functions or reasons why a behavior occurs. Some behavior analysts use the acronym SEAT to describe the four functions of behavior:

S Sensory Stimulation Behaviors that function to obtain sensory stimulation.

These behaviors occur because they feel good, or they meet a sensory need that the individual has. These behaviors occur in all environments and are generally not socially-driven. Sensory related behaviors may also be called automatically reinforced behaviors.

E Escape Escape-maintained behaviors help us escape, delay, avoid an undesirable thing from occurring in the environment. The action also usually happens in response to a specific person, event, or a request to perform an activity.

A Attention Behaviors that serve the function of attention get some reaction out of others.

Attention-seeking behaviors can happen because of both positive and negative attention .

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