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Missing Children With Autism

According to survey data published in the journal Pediatrics, nearly half of families reported their children with autism wandered or eloped from safe environments. And more than a third of the children who wandered were unable to communicate their name and/or address. Finding and safely recovering a missing child with autism presents unique and difficult challenges for families, law enforcement, first responders and search teams. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children has special search protocols and checklists to help first responders.

Children with autism go missing under a variety of circumstances. They may seek out small or enclosed spaces. They may wander toward places of special interest to them. Or they may try to escape overwhelming stimuli such as sights, sounds, surroundings or activities of others.


New Data and Safety Resources for 2017

A 10-Year Analysis of Data Related to Missing Children with Autism who have been Reported Missing to NCMEC

This analysis includes data reported to NCMEC between January 1, 2007 and December 31, 2016. In total, there were 952 children with autism reported missing to NCMEC during this ten year period. These 952 children were involved in a total of 1,067 missing incidents. Download the Analysis Here

How to Host a Sensory Friendly First Responder Event for Children with Autism - Created with n2y

This sensory friendly event familiarizes children with autism to the sights and sounds associated with different types of law enforcement, fire and rescue units. Download the Event Toolkit

Autism Points of Light for First Responders

To help raise awareness and save lives of children with autism, the Palm Beach County School District Police Department produced a roll-call video to distribute to law-enforcement agencies across the country. Watch "Autism: Points Of Light For First Responders."

Dangerous Attractions

Children with autism may exhibit interests that pose dangers such as:

  • Roadways/highways.
  • Trains.
  • Heavy equipment.
  • Fire trucks.
  • Roadway signs.
  • Bright lights.
  • Traffic signals.

Children with autism often have an extremely high attraction to water. Because of this we strongly recommend first responders and search teams immediately check all nearby bodies of water in an effort to head-off the child. These bodies of water include but are not limited to streams, ponds, lakes, rivers, creeks, storm-water retention/detention basins and swimming pools.

Copyright © 2017 National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. All rights reserved.

This Web site is funded, in part, through a grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Neither the U.S. Department of Justice nor any of its components operate, control, are responsible for, or necessarily endorse, this Web site (including, without limitation, its content, technical infrastructure, and policies, and any services or tools provided).

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