Safety: It Takes A Village!

In wandering emergency situations that are far too common in the autism community, it is critical for the whole community to respond.

Autism Speaks is working hard to provide resources and information to families in the autism community as well as first responders. As part of our efforts, this Friday, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) will join representatives from Autism Speaks, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and NYPD to address efforts to educate first-responders, caregivers and the general public about the dangers of autism wandering and its frequency. Stay tuned!

A 2012 study from the Interactive Autism Network, funded in part by Autism Speaks, confirmed what many families affected by autism already know – wandering is common, dangerous and puts a tremendous stress on families. The study revealed about 50% of children with autism have wandered from safety. Over the last few weeks, there have been dozens of autism wandering emergencies all across the country. Tragically, as a result, there has also been an alarming number of wandering-related deaths recently, a five-year-old Missouri boy, a four-year-old boy with autism in Ohio and a Rochester teen. What we also know is that wandering can occur across all setting, under every type of supervision and among people with autism of all ages. Autism Speaks provides safety and wandering prevention and response resources to parents, caregivers and first responders.

To combat wandering, we also have to reach out to the community-at-large for help in spreading autism safety awareness, especially during an active wandering emergency. On June 27th, Romario Snow, an 18-year-old with autism, wandered from his home in Los Angeles. Search efforts by local law enforcement, specialists from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and community volunteers were conducted in days following.  After many days of searching, with no new leads, the situation began to seem hopeless. But Romario’s mother never gave up hope and many dedicated volunteers continued to spread awareness of the case to keep the search going.

By distributing flyers and posting on all social media outlets, they greatly increased awareness of the case and as a result, the chances of someone recognizing him. Incredibly, after being missing for nearly a month, Romario was found, treated for injuries sustained while he was missing and reunited with his family!  In this case and during all wandering emergencies, maintaining a sense of urgency and never giving up hope is incredibly important!

Both prevention and response are critical when it comes to wandering emergencies. If you are a parent or caregiver of a person with autism prone to wandering, having a multifaceted safety plan in place is critical. Please visit our safety and wandering prevention page for resources and tools you can use to keep your loved one with autism safe.

If you are a first responder, you may be called to respond to a wandering emergency in your community. Knowing how to respond during the first critical moments of a wandering situation is vital. We encourage all first responders, law enforcement officers and search & rescue teams to review our resources for first responders to learn more about autism and wandering response on our safety and wandering prevention page.

If you have information about a person with autism who has wandered or is missing, report it to law enforcement immediately by calling 911 and follow the steps outlined here!

Social media is a great way to spread awareness and information about wandering cases. Join our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter to stay up-to-date on the latest news.

For more information about autism safety awareness training in your local community, please contact familyservices@autismspeaks.org.


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