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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wandering and Autism

[A]t least 14 children with autism known to have died this year after slipping away from their caregivers. All but one of them drowned, evidence of a fascination that many autistic children have with water. The body of the latest victim, 11-year-old Anthony Kuznia, was found Thursday in the Red River after a 24-hour search near his home in East Grand Forks, Minn.


Wandering has led to the deaths of more than 60 children in the past four years, and the fear of it can make daily life a harrowing, never-let-your-guard-down challenge for parents.

The study in Pediatrics found that half of parents with autistic children had never received advice or guidance from a professional on how to cope with wandering.
[Bob Lowery, executive director of the missing children division of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children], as well as many advocates for autism-affected families, have been exploring ways of developing a national alert system tailored to deal with wandering incidents. He said the existing Amber Alert system is not an option — it's limited to cases where a child is believed to have been abducted by someone who poses a danger to them.

One option being looked at is Project Lifesaver, launched in 1998 to help search-and-rescue teams find missing people with Alzheimer's disease, dementia, autism and Down syndrome. Funding is an issue, however: For the program to function, the people at risk of wandering must wear transmitter bracelets and emergency services must have appropriate tracking equipment.
The driving force behind the recently published research on wandering was the Interactive Autism Network, a program headed by Dr. Paul Law at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore.
In Eugene, Oregon, KVAL reports: