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Calls to Action

Parent training to reduce the elopement of children with ASD at home and in the community

State/Province Full: 
New York
United States

According to a recent survey, elopement (also called bolting or wandering) is a commonly occurring problem for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Approximately 50% of children with ASD between 4-10 years of age were reported to run away from their parents or caregiver, placing themselves in danger of harm (e.g., being hit by a car). Despite the clear need, the development of interventions for elopement has lagged behind the development of interventions for other types of problem behavior. For example, over 200 published studies have evaluated interventions to decrease repetitive behavior; however, only a handful of studies (all using single-subject designs with a small number of participants) have tested interventions for elopement. All of these studies have been conducted in experimental settings in which researchers can control the factors that influence the likelihood of success and none have shown that parents or caregivers can implement the intervention at home or in the community successfully for extended time periods. In response to this lack of research, the investigators are proposing a pilot study of an innovative parent training program to reduce elopement. Although parent training as a general approach has been demonstrated to be effective, no published study has evaluated this approach to help parents reduce their children’s elopement at home or in community settings (e.g., community shopping trips). Initially, focus groups will be conducted to provide feedback on intervention materials and procedures. After the research team has revised the intervention, professional experts will be asked to provide feedback. The feasibility of the intervention will be assessed with 3 children who elope and will make any necessary revisions to the materials and procedures. A pilot study will then be conducted with 30 children either randomly assigned to parent training (n=15) or a wait list control (n=15). The successful completion of this study will set the stage for the development of a manaulized treatment for elopement that will successfully address the parental concerns described in recent surveys.