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Immediate response 

When a child with autism goes missing, it is important to quickly identify any unique interests the child has and create a list of their favorite places. First responders should talk to anyone who knows the child well to ask for information about any interests, stimulations or obsessions the child may have. This information could provide key clues leading to a safe recovery.

As with all critically missing children, time is a vitally important factor in a safe recovery. Law enforcement agencies are encouraged to contact us at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) for additional assistance and resources, including search-and-rescue experts who immediately deploy to provide recommendations and technical assistance in cases of critically missing children.

Resources for law enforcement>

Preparing those who are close

We recommend families of children with autism talk to those closest to them about their child. This could be neighbors, teachers, friends, extended family or anyone who might spend time with or near the child. If your child does go missing, they should immediately call local law enforcement. But they should also begin searching.

By talking to those who are close to your child now, you will prepare them in case your child does someday go missing. Tell these people about any particular interests your child has, such as water, roads, trains, trucks or lights. Tell them about anything that frightens your child like animals or loud noises.

For example, if your child is attracted to water and there is a creek behind your child’s school, his or her teachers should know to look there first. Many times it is the person last with the child who can help the most.

What parents and guardians can do

  1. Be aware of bodies of water near places where the child spends time.
  2. Talk to those who are closest to your child. Neighbors, teachers, friends, extended family and anyone who might be near your child when he or she wanders away are often the first people who can help find your child quickly. Inform these people of anything your child is attracted to or scared of.
  3. Encourage those closest to your child to stop, seek and stay until help arrives.
autism infographic

Download More Tips for Parents, Guardians and Community Members Here:

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Additional resources

For more information about autism and wandering, check out www.awaare.org, a collaboration of autism agencies providing resources and tools, including the Big Red Safety Toolkit.