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TIP: Wandering

Author: Stephanie Miodus, a PhD student in School Psychology at Temple University who is also pursuing an ABA Graduate Certificate.

#tip #wandering #safety #elopement

Stephanie writes…

“When a child wanders off, or elopes, when walking outside, it is a terrifying experience for parents and guardians and a serious safety concern for the child. While the dangers of a child wandering off are worrisome in general, they are especially concerning for any children with autism who are non-vocal where it would be difficult for the child to provide any identifying information if someone were to try to assist the child in finding their way home.

It is important for families to have plans in place, such as your child wearing a bracelet ID, if unfortunately this does occur, but it is also important that walking goals to be in place ahead of time to decrease the likelihood of your child wandering off while walking.

First, there should be an understanding of the function (or the “why”) of wandering off. You child may not like a noise in the area and be trying to run away from it, or your child may want to be near the water and run to a nearby pond. This “why” can be assessed using an FBA (functional behavior assessment). Then based on this information, walking goals can be established by focusing in on addressing this “why.” For example, for the child trying to avoid a loud noise, a goal could be a child successfully walking by their parent’s side in an area far from the noise.

In the case of the child who wanted to enjoy the water, alternative ways to visit the pond should be provided, such as having the child remain within a few feet of their guardian when walking and reinforcing (rewarding) this with trips to the pond, or teaching the child a signal to request a special trip to the pond. When writing and implementing these goals, it is important that all involved focus on your child’s safety at the forefront of reducing and hopefully eliminating wandering off behavior.”

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ABA in PA Initiative

The ABAinPA Initiative is an advocacy organization made up of individuals, families, industry professionals, lawmakers and others dedicated to improving the future for those in Pennsylvania by ensuring access to Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy.