Home Based ABA, ASD, and Wandering

Home based ABA can reduce wandering, promote the child’s safety, and give parents peace of mind. Wandering, also known as elopement, is a critical safety concern for those responsible for caring for a child with autism.

Not only is the risk of wandering higher for those with more severe cases of autism, but more than half of families have never received professional guidance about this problem, including home based ABA.

Accidental drowning and traffic accidents are the main dangers associated with wandering. But there are other risks as well, including dehydration, heatstroke, hypothermia, falling, and more.

There are several ways parents, educators, and other members of the child’s care team can ensure the child’s safety.

What is Wandering?

Wandering is when a child leaves a designated space spot or the responsible caregiver. Generally, it entails circumstances where the child could become hurt.

It’s more than moments when a child runs away from his caregiver. For instance, children with autism may have difficulty recognizing safety issues and interacting with others.

An example of elopement would be someone who runs away from home to play the next street over and is unable to respond to her name or say where she lives.

Even under a close watch, it can happen instantaneously and leave the child’s caregivers frantically searching for her.

A 2012 survey of parents of children with ASD revealed that almost 50% of their children eloped. Furthermore, 1 in 4 children were missing long enough to cause concern. 

The main reasons for wandering include:

  • The pleasure of running or exploring
  • Visiting a favorite place
  • Escaping a stressful situation
  • Desire to see something interesting

Tips for Caregivers

Home Based ABA - A Toddler Walking Toward Stone Steps

Image by pauldaley1977 from Pixabay

There are several ways that parents, teachers, and other caregivers can prevent wandering. 

  • Keep an eye on the child’s behavior
  • Create an emergency response plan
  • Keep the child’s records current, including a recent photo and description
  • Secure the exits of the home with locks, gates, etc.
  • Have the child wear a form of ID at all times, such as a bracelet or card
  • Look for signals from the child that indicate he might wander before it occurs, such as a specific sound or looks at exits
  • Be aware of the child’s place
  • Offer a secure spot
  • Let neighbors and school faculty know about the risk
  • Tell first responders
Practice Safety Skills
  • Teach the child how to answer safety commands, such as “stop.”
  • Asking the child to repeat her name and phone number, or showing ID 
  • Show the child how to swim or cross the road

What to do in the Event of Wandering

Wandering can still happen even with the most meticulous preparation.

But if the worst happens, follow these steps:

  1. First, call the police and give them all relevant information, including photos, descriptions of clothing, favorite locations, and hiding spots.
  2. Ask a friend or relative to give photos and contact information to neighbors.
  3. Post photos on social media, specifically local group pages.
  4. Always leave someone at home in case the child comes back or is returned.

Additionally, Autism Speaks has several resources available online. Consider discussing this with a professional before it happens. Awareness and action is the key. Know the autism spectrum disorder your child is suffering from. It may be wandering, sleeping disorders, behavioral issues and many more. 

Children with ASD deserves treatment as soon as possible. Acceptance and awareness through action and dedication for your child with autism is a must. Also prepare for the expenses that goes with the autism treatment. Getting a good insurance should provide good financial help.

Home based ABA and Sandcastle Centers

Sandcastle Centers offers personalized treatment for your child. To learn more about our therapists and services or discussed home based ABA, contact us online or call 850-932-8021. 

For more resources, visit the Blog.


  • “Disability and Safety: Information on Wandering (Elopement).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 18 Sept. 2019, www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/disabilityandsafety/wandering.html.
  • “Wandering.” National Autism Association, nationalautismassociation.org/resources/awaare-wandering/.
  • “Wandering Prevention in Individuals with Autism.” NSSA, www.nssa.net/wandering-prevention-in-individuals-with-autism/.