It is common for children with autism to run off or wander away. Elopement, more commonly known as bolting, can be a traumatic situation for a child and their family. The first step to preventing bolting is understanding why your child may run away or wander off. Some children have difficulty with certain everyday situations and may cope by eloping to get away from or avoid something overstimulating in their environment, such as noise. Other reasons for a child with autism to bolt may include seeking out sensory stimulus or the desire to feel in control. Some children bolt because they simply enjoy running or being chased, so they may elope when a caregiver is distracted. Of course there can be many other reasons, but the key is to be in control of the situation and keep your child safe.

We recommend trying your best to take precautionary measures and making sure there is a safety plan in place. One way to do this is to install alarms so you can be alerted if your child opens a door or a window. Be sure to monitor your child frequently; during busy times when a caregiver may be easily distracted, set a timer. Get a GPS tracker that can be worn comfortably as a bracelet, necklace, on a shoe, etc. Help your child understand safe vs. unsafe behaviors by giving frequent praise and/or rewards when your child does not elope. The best ways to prevent bolting and elopement are to prepare your child ahead of time, ensure they have clear expectations, and help give them the language to use when they feel they need an escape from an overstimulating situation.

ABA services can help with teaching important safety skills to learners and their families. For any additional assistance please contact The SEED Center or a local provider to obtain more information.

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