Occurrence and family impact of elopement in children with autism spectrum disorders

Connie Anderson, Jessica K Law, Amy Daniels, Catherine Rice, David S. Mandell, Louis P Hagopian, Paul A. Law

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

OBJECTIVES: Anecdotal reports suggest that elopement behavior in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) increases risk of injury or death and places a major burden on families. This study assessed parent-reported elopement occurrence and associated factors among children with ASDs. METHODS: Information on elopement frequency, associated characteristics, and consequences was collected via an online questionnaire. The study sample included 1218 children with ASD and 1076 of their siblings without ASD. The association among family sociodemographic and child clinical characteristics and time to first elopement was estimated by using a Cox proportional hazards model. RESULTS: Forty-nine percent (n = 598) of survey respondents reported their child with an ASD had attempted to elope at least once after age 4 years; 26% (n = 316) were missing long enough to cause concern. Of those who went missing, 24% were in danger of drowning and 65% were in danger of traffic injury. Elopement risk was associated with autism severity, increasing, on average, 9% for every 10-point increase in Social Responsiveness Scale T score (relative risk 1.09, 95% confidence interval: 1.02, 1.16). Unaffected siblings had significantly lower rates of elopement across all ages compared with children with ASD. CONCLUSIONS: Nearly half of children with ASD were reported to engage in elopement behavior, with a substantial number at risk for bodily harm. These results highlight the urgent need to develop interventions to reduce the risk of elopement, to support families coping with this issue, and to train child care professionals, educators, and first responders who are often involved when elopements occur.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)870-877
Number of pages8
JournalPediatrics
Volume130
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2012

Fingerprint

Siblings
Wounds and Injuries
Child Behavior
Autistic Disorder
Child Care
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism Spectrum Disorders
Proportional Hazards Models
Confidence Intervals
Surveys and Questionnaires
Danger
Burden
Autism
Responsiveness
Questionnaire
Harm
Causes
Hazard
Drowning
Traffic

Keywords

  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Elopement
  • Wandering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

Cite this

Occurrence and family impact of elopement in children with autism spectrum disorders. / Anderson, Connie; Law, Jessica K; Daniels, Amy; Rice, Catherine; Mandell, David S.; Hagopian, Louis P; Law, Paul A.

In: Pediatrics, Vol. 130, No. 5, 11.2012, p. 870-877.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Anderson, Connie ; Law, Jessica K ; Daniels, Amy ; Rice, Catherine ; Mandell, David S. ; Hagopian, Louis P ; Law, Paul A. / Occurrence and family impact of elopement in children with autism spectrum disorders. In: Pediatrics. 2012 ; Vol. 130, No. 5. pp. 870-877.
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