Preventing and responding to wandering and bolting behaviors
Published on: Mar 4, 2016
Transcripts - Preventing and responding to wandering and bolting behaviors
Preventing and Responding
to Wandering and Bolting
This program utilizes materials with
The AWAARE Collaboration
Background Information on Wandering and Bolting
Why do kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders wander and bolt?
Prevention: Safety in the home environment
Working with schools, camps, and other programs
First Responders: Getting information to the front lines
Teaching My Child
In an emergency: Steps for dealing with a crisis situation
Creating a family plan for my child
What is wandering?
Wandering is when a person who
requires some level of supervision to
be safe leaves a safe and supervised
place and exposes themselves to
Falls / Injuries
49% of kids with ASD engage in wandering and / or bolting behaviors.
Drowning is the #1 danger to kids 14 and under who wander / elope
Wandering behavior is rated as being the most stressful ASD – related
behavior by the majority of parents whose children wander or bolt
40% of parents whose children wander or bolt report losing sleep over
worrying / fear
The majority of families with children who wander or bolt report missing
or purposefully abstaining from activities outside the home because of
It is important to communicate with
your child’s pediatrician about
wandering and bolting behaviors.
Rule out any potential medical factors contributing to wandering
You pediatrician can add a diagnostic code for wandering to your
child’s diagnosis of autism.
- Insurance coverage
- May be a helpful addition to a request for an Amber Alert
- Underscores the need for separate consideration of
bolting behavior in your child’s IEP
Why People with ASD Wander?
There are two types of behaviors related to
wandering, goal – directed wandering and non
– goal directed wandering.
Goal Directed Wandering
Goal directed wandering refers to leaving
a supervised area in order to pursue
something attractive or obtain a desired
The child wants something
The child wants to see something (sign, water, electronics, locks)
The child receives sensory input (song, TV, sparkling body of water)
The child sees something and is distracted by it
The child seeks out attention or stimulation at a time when adults
caregivers are very busy (think school parties, recess tim at school,
family gatherings, siblings’ homework time, etc)
Bolting or Fleeing
Non – goal directed wandering is also referred to as bolting or
fleeing. This refers to suddenly running or bolting, usually to quickly
get away from something. Bolting is associated with the fight or
Examples of Triggers
Unexpected exposure to sensory overload (loud noises, camera
Belief or fear that something negative will occur
Something that is negative to the child that adults might not see
right away (constant exposure to social settings, work, or other
expectations at school, changes in temperature, rooms with echos,
bullying or teasing by peers)
People with ASD may engage in
one or both of wandering and
Figure out WHEN, WHERE, AND WHY
At every step along the way in the
PREVENTION process, think WHY,
WHERE, HOW, WHEN, WHAT, AND
Step #1: Secure Your Home
Visual reminders, such as stop signs on doors and windows
Double sided key lock deadbolts, hook and eye locks, and key pad
Home security system
Battery – operated window and door alarms
Window guards or protectors
Fenced in yard with child – proof latches
Step #2: Ensure Your Child Can Be
Located and Identified
Can your child provide personally
identifying information? Will they be
willing to provide it to a stranger or a
policeman? Will they approach a
stranger? Will they run away from a
community helper who asks them a
Whose Shoe? ID or Shoe Sticker
Child Locator Alarm
Eye – Zon Personal GPS
Child tracking apps found in many phones and some games
Many tracking devices do not work when they are submerged in
water. Radio frequency trackers and some of the newer GPS
trackers on the market have addressed this safety concern. This is
one safety feature that varies by product and manufacturer. Do
not assume that a device will work in water.
Some families have been very pleased with service dogs that are
trained to prevent their child from wandering.
Some families have been extremely disappointed.
Step #3: Make schools, camps, and
other programs secure.
Put safety concerns about wandering / bolting
into your child’s IEP
Visit program locations to look at the
environment and physical structures and identify
Review schedules and activities with staff.
Discuss your safety concerns with them and work
together to identify solutions.
Adding concerns to the IEP
Put your request in writing.
Describe your child’s situation with detail.
Obtain medical documentation that your child wanders / bolts and
is at risk.
Concerns for child safety should be directly written into the IEP.
Concerns should also be reflected in the Behavior Intervention Plan
A written plan for responding to wandering and bolting should be
written into your child’s Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP)
Your school should have copies of forms to provide to first
If you do not believe that your child is
safe in a given location, then do not
leave your child in that location until
your safety concerns are addressed.
Communication with your child’s care
providers is key.
If your child engages in wandering or
bolting behaviors, it is a behavior deserving
of focused attention by a team of
Parents Teachers and Principals
BCBA Occupational Therapists
Counselors Speech Therapists
Doctors Physical Therapists
The focus of the team should be
both safety and education.
Devise a plan for monitoring the child and ensuring safety
Minimize or remove environmental triggers
Devise a plan for presenting children who bolt with alternatives to
Devise strategies, and, if needed, objectives in a BIP or IEP to assist
your child with remaining in a safe location
Step #4: Create a Safety Plan
Determine your response to bolting
and wandering in advance.
Decide in advance how you will respond to your child should
wandering or bolting behavior occur.
It is helpful to have an idea of the function of the behavior before
determining what your response will be.
For kids who are bolting / fleeing / escaping from situations,
consider that you want them to feel safe and comfortable reaching
out to you or other people for help.
Even if your child tends to intentionally bolt while laughing, act in
appropriately, or treat bolting like a game, consider that these
might be signs of emotional dysregulation.
Step # : Alert Your Neighbors
Informing your neighbors is often a difficult decision
You need to decide what and how much to tell neighbors
For some parents, filling out and distributing “Neighbor Forms” is
Other parents may wish to minimize the amount of shared
It is advised that parents provide the neighbors with some amount
of information, as neighbors will often be the first people to see a
child who has wandered or bolted from home.
Step # : Alert First Responders
Providing first responders with important information before an
emergency occurs can improve response times and outcomes
Provide your local police department with a copy of your child’s first
Keep a copy of the first responder plan on hand at all times, to
quick access in case of an emergency.
Your child’s school should also have a copy of the first responder
plan in a convenient location.
Step #5: Educate Your Child
Helping your child learn to stay in a supervised area, regulate their
emotions, and practice healthy coping skills are all necessary parts
of a solid prevention program.
Never rely solely on educational methods to keep your child safe.
The child’s safety is the responsibility of parents and assigned
Educational strategies for children:
* It is important to communicate with your child at their individual level
about bolting. Never ignore bolting because it is a difficult topic. Take
advantage of opportunities to discuss safety, and discuss safety often.
Stopping at doors.
Stopping at curbs
Keeping seatbelt on until adult gives a cue to remove.
For bolting, preteach and practice taking routes to safe places /
people at home, school
Use Social Stories FREQUENTLY
Keep it simple
Allow your child to assist in the creation as much as possible
The story should contain:
2-5 sentences describing the appropriate behavior in a social
1 sentence describing positive, observable appropriate responses
1 sentence describing the viewpoint of others as they react to the
1 sentence describing a commonly shared value or opinion
1 sentence that reminds the individual of the appropriate behavior
in the social situation
Sample Social Stories
Read Social Stories OFTEN
The largest mistakes made when using social stories is that social
stories are not read often enough or they are read after an
undesirable behavior has occurred.
Social Stories are called an ANTECEDENT INTERVENTION. The best
time to use Social Stories is BEFORE a child has engaged in
wandering or bolting
Example: When going to a busy place, a parent reads a social story
about staying near mom and dad to the child before getting out of
Teach Coping Skills
Identify calming routines, places, people, or objects
Ensure that some of these things are available wherever your child
goes, or that your child has a plan or method of accessing calming
Use social stories, cartooning, and real and fictitious problem –
solving scenarios to teach coping skills before problems occur
Help your child to successfully use practiced coping skills when
After situations are over and your child is calm, talk to him or her
about how things went. Praise any efforts that your child makes to
practice the targeted skill. Revise coping strategies as needed.
Teach a Plan B
Your child or teen needs to know what to do in the event that they
have already wandered or bolted.
Common strategies for helping kids with ASD navigate real world
situations are social stories, child – drawn cartoon strips, and making
lists of procedures. Work with your child to think about what they
would do if they were out one day and got lost.
Avoid saying “if you bolt” or “if you run away”
Help your child brainstorm safe people, safe places, reasonable
ways of identifying help or finding home.
Teach About Community Helpers
Community helper identification is a start, but it is nowhere near
Who are they?
What does their uniform look like?
How can they help you?
Where can you find them?
Role play conversations, including approaching and
Teach About Strangers
Strangers represent a danger to children who have wandered and
bolted, especially to children who have an impaired sense of
danger or are overly friendly with others.
If it is age and situation
appropriate, teach about public
After bolting and wandering.
Work with your team of professionals to create a
plan for addressing bolting and wandering with
your child after it occurs.
The response is situation specific and is linked to
your child’s specific behavioral history and
estimated reasons for wandering / bolting.
Teach Your Child to Swim
Even good swimmers can get hurt or drown, but knowing how to
swim makes it more likely that a child who falls into water will be
able to get out.
When your child has learned how to swim, inquire about the
possibility of completing a lesson with their clothing on.
Dealing with a Crisis
If your child is attracted to water,
search nearby water sources FIRST
After calling 911 . . .
Enact your family emergency plan and begin searching the places
your child would most likely be attracted to
Contact your emergency point person so that they can help you
fax your alert form to local law enforcement, contact your
neighbors, and make arrangements to care for your other children
On the phone with 911 . . .
Clearly state your child’s name
Tell them that your child has autism. State that they are endangered and that
they have no sense of danger.
If your child has a radio frequency tracking number, provide it.
Provide your child’s date of birth, height, weight, and other unique identifiers
If your child is attracted to water, tell them to immediately dispatch personnel to
nearby areas of water
Tell them when you noticed your child was missing and what clothing they were
Request that an Amber Alert, Silver Alert, or Endangered Missing Advisory be issued
Request that your child’s name and identifying information immediately be
entered into the National Crime Information Center’s Missing Person File