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A Caregiver’s Guide to Elopement in Children with Autism

Watch Karen tell her story about the strategies she uses for caring for her grandson, who has been diagnosed with autism.

Karen & Kyler Story

Watch Karen tell her story about the challenges of caring for her grandson, who has been diagnosed with autism.

For many caregivers of children with autism spectrum disorder, the potential for elopement is a worrisome and emotionally distressing daily challenge.

What Does Elopement Mean In Autism?

According to the National Autism Association, elopement/wandering is the tendency for an individual to try to leave the safety of a responsible person’s care or a safe area.

This typically includes situations where the person may be injured or harmed as a result of eloping. This goes beyond the brief time that the typical child might run off from a caregiver. 

How Many Children With Autism Display Elopement Behavior?

Based on a survey of parents conducted by the National Institutes of Health, about half of children with autism were reported to wander, and more than one quarter of children were missing long enough to cause concern.

Of those children who went missing, 65% were in danger of a traffic injury and 24% were in danger of drowning.

Six Autism Elopement Strategies

An Accra caregiver and Responsible Party (RP) Karen knows this situation all too well. Karen is the responsible party for her five-year-old grandson Kyler, an Accra client.

Fortunately, Accra’s Financial Management Services program has helped Kyler and Karen address the challenges associated with elopement. Some of these strategies include:

1. Installing A Privacy Fence

Karen’s biggest concern is ensuring that Kyler is safe from potential hazards that he is not aware of; they live near a busy road, railroad tracks and an airport. Kyler’s family was often concerned because he was able to quickly get out of their yard.

To solve this problem, Accra worked with Karen to install a six-foot privacy fence around the backyard. Now Kyler can safely play where he loves to be — outside. He has a trampoline, swing set and sandbox in the backyard.

“It’s really opened up the world for him,” Karen said. “Before, it was hard to let him go outside. It’s been wonderful.”

Photo of privacy fence to prevent autism elopement
Kyler’s privacy fence to prevent autism eloping

2. Installing a Home Security Camera

As an additional safety measure for Kyler, Accra helped Karen install a Ring Home Security System. The system notifies the family if Kyler tries to leave the house unattended.

3. Using A GPS Tracker

Karen has also considered getting Kyler the Angel Sense, which is a proven safety device with an assistive speakerphone to protect loved ones and give them peace of mind.

4. Using A Mobile Speakerphone

Another safety measure that has helped Karen keep Kyler safe is a non-verbal talking device so that Kyler is able to communicate in the event he elopes and can’t articulate who he is or where he lives.

5. ID Tags & Temporary Tattoos

Attaching identification tags to a child’s clothing and belongings, such as a lunchbox, can be helpful. Temporary tattoos featuring identification and contact information are a clever option when attending events with Kyler where there is a chance they could get separated.

6. Monitoring Through Law Enforcement

Karen has also considered the option to set up monitoring through law enforcement in case Kyler were to go missing.

Plan, Prevent & Teach Safety Skills

If you or someone you know is a caregiver for a child with autism who elopes, here are some helpful prevention techniques from the CDC:


  • Watch the child’s behaviors
  • Have an emergency plan to respond
  • Keep information about the child up-to-date (picture, description)
  • Secure your home (fences, door locks)
  • Keep identification on the child (ID bracelet or information card)


  • Notice signs that the child may wander off before it happens (for example, child makes a certain sound or looks towards the door)
  • Be alert about the child’s location
  • Provide a safe location
  • Inform neighbors and school workers
  • Alert first responders

Teach safety skills

  • Responding to safety commands (“stop”)
  • Stating name and phone number (or showing ID)
  • Swimming, crossing the street

Learn more about Accra’s FMS services and its other homecare programs.