Expert weighs in on why children with Autism tend to wander

It's a trend we have seen all too often recently, children with autism wandering off, only to end up missing.
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – It’s a trend we have seen all too often recently, children with autism wandering off, only to end up missing.

Most recently, the case of 11–year–old Ryan Larsen who walked away from his La Vista school and has been missing for over two weeks.

Channel 8 talked with local experts to find out what drives children on the spectrum to wander?

“There’s a lot of different reasons that it could be. The more common ones that we see is that being overloaded, the sensory processing. Just in too many lights, too many sounds to meany people. Then, they’re trying to retreat to an area that they feel more safe,” Melissa Blakemore with the Autism Center of Nebraska, said.

Every child on the spectrum is different, but often times sensory overload has a lot to do with wandering. It’s an issue many families deal with as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports that nearly half of families reported their child with autism wandered from safe environments.

When a child gets put into a stressful situation, it can make finding them even harder.

“Anxiety is probably kicked in quite a bit at that point, and then when you’re saying their names and adding to that sensory overload. It’s just, they can’t process what they shouldn’t be doing, and that’s to respond to their name,” Blakemore said.

With the tendency to wander, many families utilize project lifesaver, a bracelet that is designed to be hard to take off and would allow police to track missing children faster.

“It makes them feel a little bit better than if they had wandered, they’re going to be able to find them a little bit quicker,” Blakemore said.

In 2020, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said about 54% of children with autism that went missing were recovered within one day and 73% within one week.

Categories: Nebraska News, News