Participate in a National Survey About Autism and Wandering

The Interactive Autism Network, an online project that aims to collect data about autism spectrum disorder (ASD), recently launched the first nationwide survey to study the experience of wandering (or elopement, bolting, and escaping) among people with autism. 

Individuals with autism have a higher tendency to wander for extensive amounts of time, putting them at risk for trauma, injury, or death.  “Although similar behavior has been studied in Alzheimer’s disease and autism advocates identify elopement as a top priority, virtually no research has been conducted on this phenomenon in ASD,” states Dr. Paul Law, Director of the IAN Project at the Kennedy Krieger Institute.  Recently, 4-year-old Jackson Kastner drowned after wandering away from his home in Monroe County, MI, while four years ago, a 7-year-old boy wandered out of his classroom and ended up at a four-lane highway.  Despite being returned to school safe and sound, poor school supervision continues and he still wanders out of the classroom today.

To understand this wandering behavior and determine who is at risk, IAN is asking all families in the U.S. autism community to participate in the survey, which is funded by the Autism Research Institute, Autism Science Foundation, Autism Speaks, and Global Autism Collaboration.  IAN is asking for information  from families with children and dependent adults who either do or do not wander. To take part in the survey, you must register online at www.ianresearch.org.  If the necessary sample size for the survey is reached, preliminary data might be available on April 20, 2011.

The survey will help researchers answer important questions:

  • How often do individuals with ASD attempt to elope? How often do they succeed? Under what circumstances?
  • Which individuals with ASD are most at risk? At what age?
  • What burden do efforts to thwart elopement behavior place on caregivers?
  • What can be done to protect individuals with ASD and support their families?

If you have a child with autism, please consider taking part in this survey.

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