Autism Today Foundation

Autism Elopement

Autism Elopement

Leaving a designated area without permission is defined as elopement. This involves running away from a parent when out at a park or store, escaping from a home when a caregiver is distracted, or running away from school. Approximately a half of all ASD diagnosed persons have attempted to or have successfully eloped from an adult in authority. Eloping is far from being an uncommon problem among children with ASD, so much so that the phenomenon has been increasingly highlighted and focused on by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for years. It is further defined as the urge to leave protected and safe surroundings – such as a home or school – without alerting anyone. It’s also known as wandering, venturing, running, or bolting.

Drowning is the lead cause of death for children with autism. Frequently, drowning after wandering or eloping to a pool of water could have been avoided or prevented. As in Xavion’s case, locks are recommended but the measure is not always successful, so it is necessary to address the root causes of wandering to prevent the next tragedy from occurring.

Children diagnosed as being on the spectrum fixate longer on cartoon characters and show greater emotional response toward cartoons than faces of real persons. (1). Observations have shown some differences in the processing and recognition of cartoon faces in children with ASD compared with that of their typically functioning peers (1–4). Facial and emotional processing is an aspect of social functioning. Deficiencies in social functioning and processing may indicate possible elopement in children with ASD (5). Elopement is defined in the present article as an escape from the caretaker’s environment or physical boundaries set for the child (e.g., home). Elopement rates are estimated to be nearly four times higher in children with ASD when compared with their siblings who do not have such a diagnosis (5). Various strategies in curbing elopement tendencies in children with ASD have been investigated.

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