Running away or wandering off, known as elopement, is a relatively common problem for individuals diagnosed with intellectual disabilities. Individuals with autism and those who have more significant intellectual and communication deficits may be more likely to elope. One large study on elopement found that about half of individuals with autism who elope have had at least one instance in which they were missing long enough to cause their caregivers to be concerned about their wellbeing and safety. In particular, individuals who go missing may be at increased risk for a traffic injury or drowning event. Beyond the immediate concerns for the safety of the individual, elopement can make it difficult for the family to participant fully in the community; for fear that the individual may go missing in an unfamiliar location. Elopement can occur for many reasons including running away from a situation that is unpleasant, running to a preferred object or place, running to get the caregiver to chase him/her. Unfortunately, many parents report that they do not receive much support on how to deal with this dangerous behavior, despite the fact that behavioral interventions have been shown to be effective at reducing elopement.
References for Further Reading:
Lehardy RK, Lerman DC, Evans LM, O'Connor A, Lesage DL. (2013). A simplified methodology for identifying the function of elopement. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 46(1), 256-270.
Anderson C, Law JK, Daniels A, Rice C, Mandell DS, Hagopian L, Law PA. (2012). Occurrence and family impact of elopement in children with autism spectrum disorders. Pediatrics, 130(5), 870-877.
Call NA, Pabico RS, Findley AJ, Valentino AL. (2011). Differential reinforcement with and without blocking as treatment for elopement. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 44(4), 903-907.
Falcomata TS, Roane HS, Feeney BJ, Stephenson KM. (2010). Assessment and treatment of elopement maintained by access to stereotypy. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 43(3), 513-517.
Lang R, Davis T, O'Reilly M, Machalicek W, Rispoli M, Sigafoos J, Lancioni G, Regester A. (2010). Functional analysis and treatment of elopement across two school settings. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 43(1), 113-118.
Lang R, Rispoli M, Machalicek W, White PJ, Kang S, Pierce N, Mulloy A, Fragale T, O'Reilly M, Sigafoos J, Lancioni G. (2009). Treatment of elopement in individuals with developmental disabilities: A systematic review. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 30(4), 670-681.
Perrin C, Perrin S, Hill E, DiNovi K. (2008). Brief functional analysis and treatment of elopement in preschoolers with autism. Behavioral Interventions, 23, 87-95.
Tarbox RS, Wallace MD, Williams L. (2003). Assessment and treatment of elopement: A replication and extension. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 36(2), 239-244.
Piazza CC, Hanley GP, Bowman LG, Ruyter JM, Lindauer SE, Saiontz DM. (1997). Functional analysis and treatment of elopement. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 30(4), 653-672.