Study: Wandering is a common problem for children with autism
Posted at: 10/08/2012 10:12 PM
| Updated at: 10/08/2012 11:38 PM
By: Don Hudson | WHEC.com
A new study may help save the lives of children with autism.
The research indicates that children with autism wander away from their families at a rate nearly four times greater than non-autistic children. And the study shows that when children wander - they are often at risk of being involved in a fatal accident.
In the sample of 1,200 children - 49% had wandered or "eloped" at least once after the age of four. And 26% of those cases were deemed serious enough to cause their families concern.
The Eatons, who live in Fairport, are very aware of wandering. They say their son, Marius, is a master escape artist. His mother Dierdre Eaton says once when they were at the library she turned her back for a minute and Marius had run into "the offices and went out a window and almost fell into the canal."
The 11-year-old has autism. Dierdre says, unlike most kids his age - right and wrong and rules just don't sink in. "He has absolutely no sense of danger." Because of that, his house is always on lockdown. Still, that doesn't always work either and he has had some close calls.
Dierdre says he got out of the house "climbed the fence in the backyard and ran through the woods. He wondered into the construction yard. He was barefoot. And by the grace of God did not get hurt."
Unfortunately this is not a unique story. As the study indicates, 49% of children with autism wonder at least once after the age of four. Only 13% of their non-autistic siblings wandered away. Dr. Susan Hyman, an autism expert at Golisano Children's Hospital says the study shows "the true scope of the problem." She goes on to say that when children wander they face very real dangers. 65% have a close call with traffic and 24% face the danger of drowning. Plus, Dr. Hyman says the study does not include the small percentage of children with autism who suffered a fatal accident when they wandered away.
Dr. Hyman says the study is incredible information, but what needs to happen now is to use the information. She says doctors and health providers have "counseled on seat belts. They have counseled on helmets. For families with children with autism the counsel needs to include wandering." She believes the information also needs to get in the hands of first responders.
The Eatson family doesn't need a study to know wandering is a problem. And while they understand they are the first line of defense - they hope the study will help people understand and raise community awareness. Dierdre says "If people in general become aware that there is a population of children that really has no concept of the danger they are in. Maybe as a society we'll start watching out for them."
The Eaton family is trying to raise money to get a service dog for their son Marius. Autism service dogs prevent children from wandering and alert family members through barking if a child does try to leave the home.
For more information on the study you can click here.
For more information on the fundraiser for the service dog click here.