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How to stop autistic child from running off
How to Avoid your Child with ASD Running Away on Streets – Autism Partnership
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often have a tendency to run away when they are strolling on the street with their family. These behaviors concern parents greatly since it is dangerous. Meanwhile, it also makes the parents feel embarrassed for running after or shouting at their child on the street.
However, in most cases the reason behind such behavior is not that they are naughty by nature, but indicates a lack of danger awareness. When they see places or items they like (i.e. temptations in the environment), they may rush to these places straight away.
When your child with ASD exhibits these kinds of behavioral issues, we can teach them tagging and waiting skills.
Stage 1 – Tagging
You can prepare some tokens or stickers, and choose a location that your child has few chances to run away, such as at home or in a lobby. Present an instruction, such as your child, “Now, let’s practice walking together/walking with me.” At first, you can lead your child by two or three steps at normal pace, and then praise your child and give him/her a token or sticker as reinforcement. From here on, you should repeat the above steps until your child receives all the tokens or stickers, upon which reinforcement should be delivered immediately.
This stage aims at having your child understand that he or she should follow you when walking. Finding a place where your child cannot run away easily will help the child and you achieve the goal more successfully. Once your child can tag along in these areas with less temptations, you may begin to increase the duration, such as asking your child to tag five to six steps or more before giving him/her reinforcement.
Stage 2: Endure Temptation
Once your child understands tagging, you can move to stage 2. The goal of this stage is to let your child keep tagging you and does not run away even when he/she sees his/her preferred places or items (i.e. temptation). At the beginning, a place without temptation around may be a good start for training, and tokens or stickers can be used as a reward. After your child wins several tokens or stickers, you can lead him/her to somewhere enticing and attractive (with temptation around). At this stage, you should reward your child with tokens or stickers more frequently to remind him/her of the proper behaviors.
Stage 3: Teach Communication Language
For children with higher language ability, we can teach them to suggest the places they want to go verbally. When you notice your child desires to go to somewhere, you can verbally prompt him/her by saying, “Say, ‘I want to go to that place!’”. If your child copies your words, you should show your approval and walk slowly to the desired place with him/her. If your child runs away before requesting, you should stop him/her immediately and tell him/her, “You didn’t walk with me!”. Together, step back as a penalty for not following you.
When your child can consistently tag along with you each time and request to go to desired places with words, you can begin to ask him/her to wait, or refuse his/her request. If your child can stay calm and wait, you should give him/her a big reward!
Stage 4: Fade Tokens or Stickers
At this stage, you can begin to deliver reinforcement intermittently. Ultimately, stickers and tokens should be faded completely, and reinforcement should only be delivered upon arrival at the destination. For instance, you can tell your child, “Let’s go to the supermarket. Remember, we need to walk together.” Then you walk all the way to the destination with your child. If your child runs away in between, you can go back to the starting point with your child and start again.
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APSPARKS Resource Website
Information provided by:
Kan Wong (Autism Partnership Program Director)
Ms. Lai-Kan Wong is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and holds a Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis. She joined Autism Partnership in 2001 and began working as a Program Specialist. She is experienced in working with children across different settings including individual therapy session, small group training, and ABA classrooms. Ms. Wong has also helped training staff in Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan office since 2005. She is now responsible for supervising individual cases, staff training, parent training, and overseas consultation. Kan also receives ongoing training and supervision from Dr. Ronald Leaf and Dr. John McEachin in the Los Angeles office.
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Wandering Prevention Tips from our Community
We reached out to our community and asked for tips and tools used to prevent wandering. Read the great ideas and feedback we received below.
Rachel: I have a red wait sign that helps my three year old, so now when I open the front door I show him the sign and he doesn't wander off or run away!
Veronica: With our son, we go over the rules every day. Now it's to a point where he's saying the rules back to us. When we go out, he's right by my side at all times.
Lucille: When we moved to a new neighborhood the first thing we did was go door to door with a flyer with a picture of our guy and our number on it. The message we put out was "if you see this boy unaccompanied please contact us as soon as possible". The response from our new neighbors was good, most were interested in knowing more about autism and happy to help if they could. We were very lucky to have such wonderful neighbors.
Cortney: Gotta start young. From the beginning I have taught my girl to stay right by me at all times. I also walk away from her in the store to see how she reacts & she always looks for me & stays where she's at because she knows ill come right back.
Brandi: We just placed double lock deadbolts on all exterior doors.
Shel: We use a GPS tracker. It's small enough to attach to a belt loop and gives us real time updates on our phones. It gives me big peace of mind that I can find him if he does wander.
Wendy: I put big stop signs on all doors. They read "Did you ask to go outside?"
Amy: Through trial and error we finally installed the locks that you have to punch in a 4-digit code to unlock-on the inside of the doors, so in order to get out we have to punch in the combination.
Nicole: We use the term "safe spot". That meant waiting on the front porch to start (when we were leaving the house). Then it became anywhere we were...so when at the grocery "safe spot" was the grocery cart..."Hand on the safe spot" or if we went to the water park "The blue steps are the safe spot". We also (still every day multiple times a day) practice saying CJs name and his response is "Yes Coly" or " I am _______" or coming to me. Every time still he gets a skittle (his fave).
I have brought this up to teachers, friends and family. The importance of responding to his name- verbally or physically finding "eyes" with the person saying his name. We also put the "no" symbol (circle with a diagonal line thru it) on places he cannot leave without a "partner's hand" or an adult. So the classroom doors at school, the back yard gate, the front door at night (holy mother so scary!!!)
Olivia: Look at things from the child’s sneakiest perspective.
Victoria: We got my son a service dog and it was the best decision we ever made.
Joan: We made simple maps for our son and brought him around the neighborhood to show him where he could go. We also bought a set of good walkie talkies and taught him to press the button and talk. Next he got a bike and the boundaries were expanded still checking in on the walkie talkies now he has a cell . We encourage him to text us a picture so we can see where he is but mostly he stays within 5 blocks.
Libby: My son LOVES duct tape. We finally realized that he treats red duct tape like a stop sign. So, we put tape lines on the sidewalk and he won't cross them. We didn't feel like a lock that requires a key from the inside is safe in an emergency, but we do have alarms on the doors & windows on the house.
Patricia: Ky wears a charm bracelet on his ankle for summer with my cell & his med on the other side. I also had puzzle piece key chains engraved with the same. One is hooked to his back pack & one goes on his coat!
Robert: From home? We kept his shoes where he couldn't get to them, because he wouldn't leave without them.
Jen: Our OT worked on defining boundaries: room, house, yard, block, neighborhood, etc. We worked a lot on when to "stop" and "turn around" as my son stimmed on running down sidewalks in only one direction. We also used social stories and alarms/locks for just in case.
Christy: Project Lifesaver. As a fireman/paramedic that has had to respond on numerous urban searches, both with and without the equipment, it is hands down the best. As long as Indianapolis has had it, we have ALWAYS been able to find the wanderer.
Ambur: Door alarms, chain locks, working on boundaries and simple "stop" commands into his therapy, and I put him on a leash in a store, never mind the dirty looks. The local police and sheriff's office have him on file as well, in case a search needs to he called quickly.
Sarah: My little one wandered once and scared the hell out of me. So, I ordered the BIG RED box from the NAA. Also, installed locks on the tops of the doors, put his name in his undies, did the smart phone decals on his shirts, put an ID inside his helmet, notified all my neighbors, and held a meet and great with the local FD and PD so they know my son and the risk of living with autism now!
Ben: We broke down and bought a German shepherd and trained him to locate our son anytime he wandered off. It took several games of hide and seek, but 4 years later our furry puppy still likes to play hide and seek with our son. We usually have him found within minutes.
Shannon: I take a pic on my phone of her every day in her outfit and every night as soon as she puts her pjs on....if she is lost outside of the house it will be the best resource for those helping to search.
Ann: I am working on a special flyer (as recommended by autism orgs I have researched) which I will keep in his backpack and will share it with the police & fire departments so they are aware of his behaviors, capabilities and challenges...in case he wanders away.
Sallie: During any nighttime event I hang a glow stick around his neck so I can see him and hang one around my neck too so that he can see me too!
Susan: Spend some time finding out what they are wandering to. Is there one thing? A pattern? Many things?
Harry: There is a GPS device sold at radio shack and other electronic retailers that can be sewn into clothing or otherwise attached to your child. You can then set a boundary, for example, the inside of your home or your yard. If your child wanders out of the boundary, you will receive a text message alerting you to his/her whereabouts.
Tiffany: Every time we go out I give him a job to do and then he becomes more interested in showing me how well he does his job and he forgets about running away.
Eileen: We uses to teach our kids (in a safe environment) to play the game "red light and green light" but instead we used the words walk, run and stop. They were rewarded for following the commands. Many moms told us that this helped them in a time of need!
Visit our Autism Safety Project for more resources and information.
How to prevent children with autism from running away - nakedheart.online
How to prevent children from running away from autism - nakedheart.online
In the second part of the masterclass for professionals working with children with autism, Mindy Scheitauer, Psychologist, Behavior Analyst and Senior lecturer at Emory University, talked about how to prevent runaway and use functional analysis for this.
Determine what running away looks like for a particular child. This is important so that everyone who may be involved in this situation has a clear understanding of this.
Determine the runaway function - why the child runs away, what he is trying to convey by such behavior. You need to pay attention to what happens before and after the escape. This will help to understand the nature of this behavior. Most often, a child with autism runs away because they are trying to avoid something or get something in this way (for example, attention). If the escape worked, then he will try to resort to it again. For a small group of children, running away is automatic reinforcements because they enjoy the very act of running. It is sometimes very difficult to define an escape function, and the best way to understand why a problematic behavior occurs is through functional analysis.
Teach your child to get what he needs in other ways, for example: to express his desires, to respond correctly to fear.
Reorganize the environment so that the child can no longer get what he wants by running away. If running away does not lead to getting what they want, the child will resort to it less and less - this is called extinction.
Teach parenting adults. Everyone in the environment must learn to properly respond to running away.
Generalize to different conditions and situations.
In the behavioral sciences, a procedure whereby when a behavior is no longer reinforced, its frequency gradually decreases.
go to glossary
Ability to apply skills learned in one situation/environment to other situations with different people, eg applying skills learned in the classroom to natural settings. For a skill to be considered generalized, it must be used by a person in different environments, in interaction with different people and under the influence of different stimuli, and also persist for a long time.
go to glossary
The purpose of the behavior. In behavioral analysis, the following behavioral functions are distinguished: access to the desired object, activity, or attention; avoidance or withdrawal of an activity, object, or attention; automatic (desire to get certain sensations or avoid them).
go to glossary
Direct manipulation of the environment to identify functions of undesirable behavior. This type of assessment involves the study of the functions of behavior in experimental, specially organized conditions. This is the most accurate and reliable method for determining the function of behavior, which has high requirements for the level of professional training of specialists conducting the analysis.
Go to glossary
Tagged tags: Unwanted behavior of anutisms
Unwanted behavior of the child with autism and how to deal with it
Minda Sheitauer: Assistance for the escape of children with autism
Minda shytauer : Intervention programs for children who run away. Part 1
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How to get the right response from a child with autism? Tracy Dee Whitt '
People with autism are smart, but sometimes it's hard for parents of an autistic child to notice. When we ask our kids to do something and they don't respond, it's not because they're smart, it's because the autistic child's brain takes time to process the information. As Temple Grandin once said, "The autistic brain doesn't process verbal and visual information at the same time."
When Jeremiah was younger, I spoke to him in long sentences. I wanted to treat him the way I would treat our daughter, and she understood extended sentences very well. At some point, I realized that he did not perceive what I was saying. So if I needed him to do something, I shortened the sentences to short phrases, for example: "Get off the table. "
1. Use short sentences emphasizing the action you expect.
Despite the change for the better, I still had trouble getting him to do what I told him to do. When Jeremiah was three years old, a speech therapist and a child development specialist came to our house. Many times they told us that children (not necessarily only children with autism) only hear one or two words at the end of your sentence, so they suggested that we say “Get down” instead of “Go down immediately from [what the child is currently climbing ]” or “Put your hands down” instead of, for example, “Stop hitting on TV.” . Keep it simple. When you say "Stop hitting the TV," your child can only understand the last word: "Blah blah blah TV." While if you say “Put your hands down”, then it will be easier for you to teach him to understand what you want from him.
It is not necessary to use such short phrases in all your communication with your child, only when you need him to do something specific. Once the child has started doing what you say, you can move on to longer sentences and see what happens. At times, the child may ignore you, have difficulty understanding speech, or may be unable to concentrate: in these cases, you should return to two-word phrases.
2. Give the child time to process what is being said
When you ask your child to do something, wait for the child to have time to understand what you are saying. Give him time to filter what you are saying. We see, hear, and perceive the world differently than they do, and they may be dealing with a variety of sensory stimuli that a neurotypical person doesn't even notice. After you've said the instruction, you can SLOWLY mentally count to five or ten and maybe that's what your child needed - more time to understand what you said.
It is very important that YOUR body move when you ask your child to do something. When your child hits someone or something, touches something that should not be touched, or climbs on a piece of furniture that is not intended for this, it is not enough to shout from the other side of the room: “Get down!” or "Put your hands away!", you need to move. Otherwise, your child will not take you seriously.
I'm not saying that you need to be rude and stand above your child's soul. Just tell your child what you want from him, in a strict but kind voice, while walking towards him. If you stand still and repeat the instructions over and over again, your child will decide that your words can be ignored and continue his behavior.
4. Use the hand-on-hand prompt when teaching your child
Hand-on-hand teaching is often effective for children with autism. This method cannot be used as a permanent control or to “calm down” stereotypes when the child claps his hands, shakes his hands, and so on. I am convinced that we must take into account the views of autistic adults, many of whom have suffered from this type of mis-education.
If your child does not understand what you want him to do or has difficulty following verbal instructions, say the instruction and immediately place your hands gently on his hands and guide them. For example, if a child is being too rough with an animal, place your hands on the child's arms and gently stroke the animal with their hand while saying, "Stick gently" or "Easy." Always make sure to use the same words for the same instruction.
You might say, "But that won't teach my child good manners." You can use long sentences, say "please" and "thank you" in other situations with your child, but when you want to teach him new and basic actions, it's okay to forget about the rules of courtesy for a while.
5. Be Consistent
Parents of autistic children know how important consistency and daily routines are for our children, and if not, you just found out. 🙂 When teaching your child, consistency is EXTREMELY important. It is impossible to exaggerate its importance. If you give up and let your child not do what you think is important (given his autism and sensory characteristics), then your child will return to a more comfortable behavior for himself: walking around the house with food in his hand, jumping on furniture, hit things.
I know from experience how important consistency is in our home, because when we deviate from it, Jeremiah reverts to old behavior. When Jeremiah is sick, he always takes a step back, so it's quite predictable. This is an understandable situation, but it only emphasizes the need for consistency. We get tired, family members get sick, we go on vacation, routines get disrupted and as a result, old behaviors resurface, but if you try to stay consistent, you'll help your child get back to what he's capable of.
6. Praise for specific actions and only sincerely
Praise your child for specific actions and be sincere. Praise him when he did what was required of him: "Thank you, you did it so well." Praise him even when your child is simply not doing something undesirable, such as sitting quietly at the table during lunch or jumping on a trampoline, instead of trying to run away from the yard. (Running away is not a problem per se. Autistic people perceive the world differently than neurotypical people, they hear, see and feel things that we do not notice, and the attempt to escape may be explained by the needs of the child. However, you need your child to expand his experience , played and interacted, so always praise him if he does).
Very often, children with autism are faced with so much guidance and reprimand that we just need to make sure they know when they are doing something well.
I can't speak for all parents of children with autism, but I know how often and how much I get tired. Raising such a child requires love, work, work and even more work to help him, and we can easily go with the flow and ignore the child's behavior, because at that moment we have given up. I know that I pay more attention to the child when he makes a mess than when he behaves well. We can get so wrapped up that we only start to lead and forget to tell the child: “Thank you for staying downstairs” or “You listened to me so well.” I know I have to constantly remind myself not to focus on what Jeremiah does badly, but instead focus on what he does well.
As Jess wrote in the Diary of a Mom blog: “… Always assume competence and try to understand our children, because believe it or not, they perceive, remember, store and realize everything at their own pace.