Wandering Prevention Tips from our Community

We reached out to our community and asked for tips and tools used to prevent wandering. Read the great ideas and feedback we received below.

Rachel: I have a red wait sign that helps my three year old, so now when I open the front door I show him the sign and he doesn't wander off or run away!

Veronica: With our son, we go over the rules every day. Now it's to a point where he's saying the rules back to us. When we go out, he's right by my side at all times.

Lucille: When we moved to a new neighborhood the first thing we did was go door to door with a flyer with a picture of our guy and our number on it. The message we put out was "if you see this boy unaccompanied please contact us as soon as possible". The response from our new neighbors was good, most were interested in knowing more about autism and happy to help if they could. We were very lucky to have such wonderful neighbors.

Cortney: Gotta start young. From the beginning I have taught my girl to stay right by me at all times. I also walk away from her in the store to see how she reacts & she always looks for me & stays where she's at because she knows ill come right back.

Brandi: We just placed double lock deadbolts on all exterior doors.

Shel: We use a GPS tracker. It's small enough to attach to a belt loop and gives us real time updates on our phones. It gives me big peace of mind that I can find him if he does wander.

Wendy: I put big stop signs on all doors. They read "Did you ask to go outside?"

Amy: Through trial and error we finally installed the locks that you have to punch in a 4-digit code to unlock-on the inside of the doors, so in order to get out we have to punch in the combination.

Nicole: We use the term "safe spot". That meant waiting on the front porch to start (when we were leaving the house). Then it became anywhere we were...so when at the grocery "safe spot" was the grocery cart..."Hand on the safe spot" or if we went to the water park "The blue steps are the safe spot". We also (still every day multiple times a day) practice saying CJs name and his response is "Yes Coly" or " I am _______" or coming to me. Every time still he gets a skittle (his fave).

I have brought this up to teachers, friends and family. The importance of responding to his name- verbally or physically finding "eyes" with the person saying his name. We also put the "no" symbol (circle with a diagonal line thru it) on places he cannot leave without a "partner's hand" or an adult. So the classroom doors at school, the back yard gate, the front door at night (holy mother so scary!!!)

Olivia: Look at things from the child’s sneakiest perspective.

Victoria: We got my son a service dog and it was the best decision we ever made.

Joan:  We made simple maps for our son and brought him around the neighborhood to show him where he could go. We also bought a set of good walkie talkies and taught him to press the button and talk. Next he got a bike and the boundaries were expanded still checking in on the walkie talkies now he has a cell . We encourage him to text us a picture so we can see where he is but mostly he stays within 5 blocks.

Libby: My son LOVES duct tape. We finally realized that he treats red duct tape like a stop sign. So, we put tape lines on the sidewalk and he won't cross them. We didn't feel like a lock that requires a key from the inside is safe in an emergency, but we do have alarms on the doors & windows on the house.

Patricia: Ky wears a charm bracelet on his ankle for summer with my cell & his med on the other side. I also had puzzle piece key chains engraved with the same. One is hooked to his back pack & one goes on his coat!

Robert: From home? We kept his shoes where he couldn't get to them, because he wouldn't leave without them.

Jen: Our OT worked on defining boundaries: room, house, yard, block, neighborhood, etc. We worked a lot on when to "stop" and "turn around" as my son stimmed on running down sidewalks in only one direction. We also used social stories and alarms/locks for just in case.

Christy:  Project Lifesaver. As a fireman/paramedic that has had to respond on numerous urban searches, both with and without the equipment, it is hands down the best. As long as Indianapolis has had it, we have ALWAYS been able to find the wanderer.

Ambur: Door alarms, chain locks, working on boundaries and simple "stop" commands into his therapy, and I put him on a leash in a store, never mind the dirty looks. The local police and sheriff's office have him on file as well, in case a search needs to he called quickly.

Sarah: My little one wandered once and scared the hell out of me. So, I ordered the BIG RED box from the NAA. Also, installed locks on the tops of the doors, put his name in his undies, did the smart phone decals on his shirts, put an ID inside his helmet, notified all my neighbors, and held a meet and great with the local FD and PD so they know my son and the risk of living with autism now!

Ben: We broke down and bought a German shepherd and trained him to locate our son anytime he wandered off. It took several games of hide and seek, but 4 years later our furry puppy still likes to play hide and seek with our son. We usually have him found within minutes.

Shannon: I take a pic on my phone of her every day in her outfit and every night as soon as she puts her pjs on....if she is lost outside of the house it will be the best resource for those helping to search.

Ann: I am working on a special flyer (as recommended by autism orgs I have researched) which I will keep in his backpack and will share it with the police & fire departments so they are aware of his behaviors, capabilities and challenges...in case he wanders away.

Sallie: During any nighttime event I hang a glow stick around his neck so I can see him and hang one around my neck too so that he can see me too!

Susan: Spend some time finding out what they are wandering to. Is there one thing? A pattern? Many things?

Harry: There is a GPS device sold at radio shack and other electronic retailers that can be sewn into clothing or otherwise attached to your child. You can then set a boundary, for example, the inside of your home or your yard. If your child wanders out of the boundary, you will receive a text message alerting you to his/her whereabouts.

Tiffany: Every time we go out I give him a job to do and then he becomes more interested in showing me how well he does his job and he forgets about running away.

Eileen: We uses to teach our kids (in a safe environment) to play the game "red light and green light" but instead we used the words walk, run and stop. They were rewarded for following the commands. Many moms told us that this helped them in a time of need!

Visit our Autism Safety Project for more resources and information.