What’s one of the biggest worries for parents of autistic kids? That they’ll run away.
Experts say autistic kids run away so frequently, it even has a name: “Bolting.” And it has nothing to do with how they’re raised, bad parenting, or how carefully they’re watched.
According to a recent study, nearly half of kids with some level of autism run away from home. The more severe their symptoms, the more likely they are to run off. Even worse, because they don’t understand the danger, one-quarter of autistic runaways are at risk of drowning, and two-thirds risk being hit by cars.
And they’re not just wandering away. Autistic kids run off if they feel stressed, or uncomfortable. But mostly, they actually have a specific mission, like, going back to a place they love, like a park. Or pursuing on one of their “hobbies.” Like one 7-year-old we read about, who was fascinated by highway exit signs, and was found headed toward a busy interstate.
And at the peak of their desire to run – which is about 6 years old - 65% of parents say their child tries to run away anywhere from once a week, to multiple times a day.
What can be done?
Some parents put visual cues inside every door – like pictures of stop signs - to remind autistic kids not to leave. And they install alarms that chirp loudly whenever a door or window is opened. Others use GPS tracker bracelets originally designed to help find lost dementia patients. If the child goes missing, the device is activated, and it’ll call 911 so they can be found ASAP. If you’d like to go further, check out the website SafetyNetbyLoJack.com.