Autism Forces Parents to Lock Up Kids for Their Own Good

door lockA shocking new study that was recently released puts a spotlight on what many parents know all too well -- children with autism often tend to wander away alone from safe places like their homes. What no one seemingly knew, however, is just how prevalent the problem is.

According to The New York Times, the study found almost half of children with autism age 4 and older have tried to leave home or another safe place at least once. About 25 percent say they were gone long enough to cause alarm, and many told of close calls with dangers like drowning and traffic accidents. Too many said the fear of this happening keeps them from going out in public and from sleeping at night.


We see the stories in the news all the time of autistic children who wander away from home and go missing, but it's mind-boggling to think that it's this prevalent of an issue. Most of us with "typical" children have a couple of terrifying years during toddlerhood while this is a possibility, but after that, we take off the door latches and are able to relax a little. Parents of autistic children never are able to do so, and often have to resort to turning their homes into virtual prisons.

The study's author, Dr. Paul A. Law, told the paper, “This is probably one of the leading causes of death and morbidity for kids with autism.” No one wants to keep their child locked up, but it's certainly better than some of the horrifying alternatives.

One father, Brian Murphy, told the paper how his 14-year-old Patrick has repeatedly snuck out of their home despite deadbolts, window locks, and other security measures. “He has broken through brackets, windows, picked locks, you name it. It’s absolutely the most stressful part of parenting a child with autism.” I can't even begin to imagine.

The good news about this study is that it does shed light on this problem that many have been facing alone for years, and it demonstrates the need for emergency responders to be trained to search properly for children with autism (e.g., sometimes sirens and lights will cause them to run). Hopefully it will also lead to increased discussion and potential solutions to help parents better keep their children safe.

Has your child ever wandered away from home?


Image via restyler/shutterstock

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