What to do if a child with autism goes missing in your area

3 Oct

Last night, a missing child with autism post came through my feed. My heart dropped, because the last three that went through my feed ended with the child being found dead in a body of water, having wandered off and drowned. Luckily, in this latest case, the child was found – cold and wet, but alive.

Children with autism are notorious for wandering towards water. Water is such a sensory thing, and heck, for me, being next to a body of water is just calming, so I can see why these children get there, get too close.

So what can YOU do if a child with autism goes missing in your town?

Own a pool? Check it. Doesn’t matter if it’s January and snowing out. Go check your pool if you have one. So what if you have a six foot fence around it – kids can scale a fence easily.

Live on a pond? Get neighbors together, check the pond, then monitor it until the child is found.

Live on a creek of any sort? Check the creek. Walk up and down the banks a little. Call neighbors, ask them to do the same.

Live behind a park? Check the swings.

Actually spot said child who’s been missing? For God’s sake, don’t run up arms wide going “Oh! I found you Johnny! Let me give you a big hug!” You’re liable to get head butted. Instead, call the cops, then stay near the child. Don’t scare him off. Instead, maybe pull out your smartphone and announce “I’m going to watch a video. Who wants to watch a video with me?” Ten to one, the kid will be breathing down your neck in 35 seconds. My kid would, and she doesn’t have autism. If the child is lured by the video watching, sit on the ground, be less intimidating, wait for police. If the child walks off, just walk a few feet behind him, let the police know what direction you’re going in.

And as a parent of three “normal” kids and one easy one, lol, these tips are good for when ANY child wanders off. Check water. Keep eyes open. Don’t scare them off.

This has been a Public Service Announcement from me 😀


Note – this is NOT about why a child with autism may wander, okay? It’s not about bad parenting. If it is, well, I’m a bad parent. 


11 Responses to “What to do if a child with autism goes missing in your area”

  1. franhunne4u October 3, 2016 at 12:15 pm #

    This IS good advice. Not that I have many chances running into children anyway – working 41 hours a week …

    • the writer October 3, 2016 at 12:16 pm #

      Well now that you’ve said that, you’ll be tripping over kids everywhere! LOL!

      • franhunne4u October 3, 2016 at 12:18 pm #

        No danger – I live in Germany – you know, that country that will die out in about 70 years …

      • the writer October 3, 2016 at 12:21 pm #

        shame…nice people…maybe you can take in some Americans of German heritage as refugees if Trump is elected.

      • franhunne4u October 3, 2016 at 12:24 pm #

        Well, there might still be hope – the generation of my niece has more joy in bringing up children.

  2. Christine Phelan October 3, 2016 at 2:12 pm #

    You’re the best!

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. figspowart October 3, 2016 at 9:20 pm #

    Wonderful piece. And a balm to the soul of us parents of Absconders (sorry, Unplanned Leavers!) How wonderful if everyone in the community could just be looking out just a bit, a missing autistic child is a gut wrenching event for a parent.

  4. Amanda S. October 4, 2016 at 12:27 am #

    As a former NPS Park Ranger, I’d like to put in a few cents worth here. Namely, be careful how well you teach your child to be afraid of strangers. We’re having a growing problem with lost kids when we find them, admitting they saw other park visitors and did not ask for help and that they hid from search parties because they had been so thoroughly educated never to go near strangers. Searches that would have taken hours if the child had approached people or let themselves be seen instead took days.

  5. janinmi October 4, 2016 at 11:29 am #

    Thank you for this post! I would have done all the wrong things if I ever was in such a situation.

    @Amanda, thank you also for your comment. Perhaps teaching a child not to take anything from strangers and staying about ten feet away from anyone they know or don’t know would be more useful. Much of the horrifying things that children suffer come from those they already know.

  6. Kathleen Hodges October 11, 2016 at 2:49 pm #

    THANK YOU!!! I didn’t know about the attraction to water and I loved the idea of watching a video. You educate me and many others. Please know it is appreciated.


  1. Some good advice about what to do if a child with ASD goes missing | Coventry Mencap and Wayfarers - October 3, 2016

    […] via What to do if a child with autism goes missing in your area — Herding Cats […]

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