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Dealing with Elopement and Wandering

By Marty Stone, Resource Specialist
En Español

One of the scariest moments for a parent is when they discover their child with autism has disappeared. In the autism community, eloping is the term that is used for individuals that wander or run away from caregivers or a secured location. My family has experienced this terror too many times. We can never shake the fear that an elopement will happen again with disastrous results. 

One day, my son and I were taking a tour of an intermediate school. I had already informed the staff that he was at risk of eloping. I was talking to the principal when we suddenly noticed that my son was nowhere to be found. The school quickly contacted personnel with walkies to inform them that a child was missing. No one could find him in the intermediate school. I was about to contact the police department when someone in the adjoining junior high building found him on a different floor. He came back with a staff member and a giant smile on his face. To this day, we have no idea how he managed to get to his location without his walker. 

Over the years, we have used numerous methods to try to keep him safe and prevent eloping within our home and vehicles. We installed hard to reach door locks and hung stop signs on our exterior doors. After an episode when he escaped while we were outside, we installed a door alarm on the door leading to the garage. We turned on the child lock feature on our vehicle doors to prevent escape in parking lots. Finally, we signed up with Project Lifesaver, a free tracking service in our community. 

We have also worked with a behavior therapist through the Family Support Medicaid Waiver. She was able to help me devise a plan for getting my kids in and out of the car safely. She has offered to join IEP meetings to help make sure he is safe while at school. She helped us devise and implement proactive and reactive strategies to help deter this behavior from happening.  We also want him to be aware of the consequences regarding safety, for eloping. Every time we had an incident of elopement, we met with her to go through what happened to prevent it from happening again in the future.  

Eliminating elopement is still listed as a goal with his behavior therapist. We still take precautions while we are out in public. I continue to inform his teachers and other providers about his elopement risk. We are using medication to help with meltdowns and other problem behaviors. I still use the door locks and door alarms at my house. One of our providers recently mentioned a new technology product called GeoComm that we will be looking into, as well. The number of incidents has been reduced, but I am afraid to let my guard down. 

What's Happening

Registration is now open for our 2022 Heart to Heart Conference! Join us on Thursday, September 29th for a full day of learning with 12 different sessions available. Our conference is free and fully virtual!

For a sneak peek at the agenda, visit

We'd love to have you join us! Register today!

Join INF2F as we partner with Gordon Homes for an in-person family financial training opportunity on July 21st from 6:00p-8:00p. This training will be held at 50 E. 91st Street Suite 314, Indianapolis. It will cover a wide range of topics, such as special needs trusts, ABLE accounts, and more! For additional information or to register for this training workshop, email

INF2F Staff will be sharing information and resources with families at the Terre Haute Disability Resource Fair, hosted by Connections Case Management, Happiness Bag Inc., and Hometown Waiver Solutions. This FREE resource fair will take place on Saturday, August 13th from 11:00a-2:00p at 3833 Union Road, Terre Haute. Questions? Email:

Did You Know?

Summer Safety Resources

1. INF2F Safety Fact Sheets
2. Riley Children's Health Safety Store

3. Child Summer Safety Resources (Indiana Department of Child Services)

4. Elopement and Wandering Safety Information (The Indiana INformation Network)

5. Fireworks Safety Tips (Safe Kids Worldwide)

6. Keeping Kids with Food Allergies Safe at Outdoor Celebrations (Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America)
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