Thursday, January 3, 2013

What's The Deal With Wandering?

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by Bec Oakley, author of

When Attie was younger his preferred method for dealing with overwhelming situations was to run away... and since almost everything in his day was overwhelming for him, this meant he was constantly bolting for the nearest door.

And he’s not alone - it’s common to hear words like escape artist and runner used to describe autistic kids. This need to run off, seek out or explore other places is called wandering and recent data suggests it’s much more common than previously realized, affecting as many as half of all families with an autistic child.

What is wandering, and why is it such a problem?

If you have a kid who wanders, you’d probably agree that we need to come up with a better name for it. ‘Wandering’ implies a kind of casual or slow drifting off course, which doesn’t at all describe the speed and determination with which these kids can disappear, and gives the false impression that they’re merely confused or lost. That’s not what we’re talking about here.

Autistic wandering is an intense desire to seek out another place, usually without regard for personal safety.

Keeping tabs on a kid who needs to wander is extremely challenging. Many of them are skilled at waiting for the precise moment when backs are turned before making their dash, and can be gone in mere seconds. They can be adept at opening even locked doors, so protecting them can turn a house into a fortress. It also makes venturing outside the home extremely stressful, and many kinds of outings are simply impossible.
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