It can be common for special needs children of all ages to occasionally go into their own world and stray from adult supervision. According to the National Autism Association, the wandering behavior in children with autism tends to increase during warmer months. Strong distractions combined with an over-stimulating setting, such as field day or outdoor activities, can lead to a child wandering off without notice. If you notice that your child has been doing this a little more frequently or has a history of wandering off, here are some steps you can take to reduce the amount of times it happens and eventually prevent him or her from wandering off at school.
- Address wandering issues in his or her Individualized Education Program (IEP).
If your child has a tendency of wandering off, you can arrange for a meeting with your child’s school staff, administrators and your child’s IEP team. During this meeting, it is important to discuss past incidents and voice any concerns. As a parent, you have the ability to have the IEP adjusted if previous methods or items do not seem to be beneficial for your child.
- Document all wandering-related incidents
It is helpful to make the school aware of past wandering incidents so that teachers and staff can prepare ways to respond if it arises at school or at school-related events. Address things such as locations that your child had been found, his or her obsessions, etc.
- Submit a written request to your school that you must be informed of any incidents.
For a child that requires adult supervision at all times during the school day, let the school administration and staff know, and ensure that it is stated in your child’s IEP. Additionally, you can highlight that your child cannot be left unattended at any time.
- Try to eliminate triggers that have led to wandering in the past.
If you are aware of items, locations or settings that inspire your child to wander off, address these triggers to the school. The majority of fatal wandering accidents involved drowning. Ask the school if there are any bodies of water on or near campus, such as lakes, ponds or pools, and if they have any safety measures in place to prevent your child from accidentally accessing them. As a parent, it is key to ensure that the environment is controlled and there is no possibility of wandering.
- Ask what the school’s policies are on wandering prevention.
As a parent of a child with autism, it is important that you are aware of and understand the school’s safety and security measures. To ensure your child’s safety, you can inquire about additional precautionary steps, such as alarms that go off when classroom doors are opened, locks or gates.
- Introduce your child to all school security staff.
Have your child meet the school’s security personnel. During this first encounter, provide them with information about your child, ways to help him or her calm down, if he or she does not respond well to physical contact, loud sounds, etc.
- Make sure that your child’s IEP also includes safety skills and wandering-prevention measures.
You can include in the IEP emotional regulation, how to avoid triggers, what to do in case of wandering, and 1-to-1 supervision while transitioning into new spaces and different rooms.
If you are looking for special needs schools in New Jersey, contact the experienced teachers and staff at Deron School today.