Autism and Wandering

It is increasingly common for us to be called by parents or guardians of missing children with autism when their children have gone missing.  Some are very, very young children who manage to get out of their home and walk away.  It isn’t helpful to blame the parents –I know of parents of autistic children with sophisticated locking systems inside their homes but the child still finds a way out.  Judging or blaming parents might delay their willingness to seek help which is something we don’t want and it may prevent them from seeking the help they need.  Any report of a missing child in our community gets a very strong, immediate response from us.  We know that the quicker we begin the search, the better chance we have of finding the child safely.  THERE IS NEVER A WAITING PERIOD BEFORE REPORTING ANYONE MISSING – CHILD OR ADULT.  Autistic children pose slightly different challenges and often don’t recognize us as helpers when they are in a frightening situation away from home.

The National Center for Missing and Endangered Children posted this information on their website:

Children with autism often have an extremely high attraction to water. Because of this we strongly recommend first responders and search teams immediately check all nearby bodies of water in an effort to head-off the child. These bodies of water include but are not limited to streams, ponds, lakes, rivers, creeks, storm-water retention/detention basins and swimming pools.

Other dangerous attractions

Children with autism may exhibit other interests that pose similar dangers such as:

  • Roadways/highways.

  • Trains.

  • Heavy equipment.

  • Fire trucks.

  • Roadway signs.

  • Bright lights.

  • Traffic signals.

They also posted a short video on their website about this phenomenon and how you can help.

Learn more:

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I'm the Chief of Police for the Auburn Hills Police Department.