Stats at a glance (National Autism Association, 2021)

  • Roughly half, or 48%, of children with an ASD attempt to elope from a safe environment, a rate nearly four times higher than their unaffected siblings.
  • In 2009, 2010, and 2011, accidental drowning accounted for 91% total U.S. deaths reported in children with an ASD ages 14 and younger subsequent to wandering/elopement.
  • 32% of parents reported a “close call” with a possible drowning

The Home
Securing a house or apartment to meet the needs of a child known to elope can be difficult. Additional locks and alarms are helpful, but it can be a struggle finding the balance between keeping a child inside and maintaining clear exits in case of an emergency. Often, children with ASD are poor sleepers, adding additional stress and worry to the caregivers.

The Water
Drowning accounts for 46% of all injury deaths among children with autism, which translates to 160 times the chance of dying from drowning compared to other children. (CNN, 2017) Living in the northeastern United States, especially in Rhode Island (the Ocean State), introduces many different kinds of water. From bathtubs and pools to rivers and the ocean, there is plenty to be mindful of.

How to Help

  • Introduce your child to members of the community, so both community members and your child can recognize each other if elopement does occur
  • Work with your local fire and police staff to secure your home safely
  • Place additional locks and alarms that are out of reach
  • Enroll your child in swim lessons. This is imperative, as it can teach your child basic safety, self-control, and self-awareness while in the water
  • Create a family emergency plan

Family Emergency Plan

  • Add In Case of Emergency (ICE) to your cell phone
  • Pass out copies of the family emergency plan to family and friends
  • Identify the main areas your child will likely go within the neighborhood
  • Assign "Search Angels" and locations ahead of time
  • Have a completed Elopement Alert form in an accessible location with description and medical information along with calming strategies
  • Store emergency contact numbers in your cell phone

Fire Safety Tips

  • Check your smoke alarms - working smoke alarms reduce the chances of dying in a fire by nearly 50%
  • Create and practice a home fire escape plan
  • Choose an outside meeting place that is a safe distance away from your home
  • Use Social Narratives to help educate children on fire safety
  • The National Fire Protection Association has a section of their website dedicated to public education on fire safety

Affordable Safety Tools

  • Door/window alarms
  • Shoe ID tags
  • Visual Stop signs
  • Guardian locks - portable exterior door locks
  • Temporary tattoos (can be customized to include an important phone number in case of an emergency
  • Window clings

TAP, You’re On
Large crowds can be overwhelming, especially if you know someone that is at risk of elopement. “TAP, You’re On” is a tried-and-true strategy that can help make sure that everyone can be safe and have fun.

Adult Drivers - Wallet Card
An important time for a person with Autism Spectrum Disorder to disclose the fact that they have ASD is when interacting with a “first responder,” i.e. a police officer, fire fighter, or emergency medical technician.

Tip Sheets

These tip sheets are a way to gather important information at a glance. These can be helpful for medical appointments, school, and community events.

Tip Sheet (Page 1)

Tip Sheet (Page 2)

Wandering Diagnosis - Code Z91.83 (ICD-10 Data)

  • Z91.83 is a billable/specific ICD-10-CM code that can be used to indicate a diagnosis for reimbursement purposes
  • The 2022 edition of ICD-10-CM Z91.83 became effective on October 1, 2021
  • This is the American ICD-10-CM version of Z91.83 - other international versions of ICD-10 Z91.83 may differ


National Autism Association - Meet the Police

National Autism Association - Personal Emergency Profile

Autism Society - If you are the victim of a crime

Social Narrative - How to sit safely in a car!