Over half of the children suffering from autism run away at least once and many go missing for a long duration, raising concerns.
A recent study published in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, has found that autistic kids often wandered off from their appointed place and many tried to run away several times a day.
The study rules that it is not a sign of confusion among afflicted children but a representation of exploration that tends to avoid anxious or uncomfortable situation.
"It's rooted in the very nature of autism itself," Dr. Paul Law, who worked on the study, told Reuters Health. "Kids don't have the social skills to check in with their parents, and to have that communication and social bond that most children have when they're approaching a road or at a park," Dr. Paul added.
Over 1,000 parents with children afflicted by autism spectrum disorder were surveyed for the study. Among those surveyed, approximately 49 percent of those with afflicted children stated that their wards had tried to run away at least once.
Autism researcher Russell Lang from Texas State University-San Marcos noted that prevalence of running away or "eloping" act in children with autism "absolutely surprised" him.
"It's a very dangerous behavior, and it's a little bit deceptive because it can seem somewhat benign compared to other challenging behaviors," Lang, who was not part of new study, told Reuters Health.
Reportedly, the number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, including autism and Asperger's syndrome, has increased over the years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in 88 children has a diagnosis of one of the conditions.
"This is not simply a case of parents being remiss in some way regarding their supervision of their children," Lang stated, adding: "The child with autism doesn't realize what danger they're putting themselves in. They have a propensity to elope; it seems, regardless of parental care."
Lang also pointed out how the therapy that rewards kids for not wandering off may help prevent them from disappearing in the future.
Dr. Paul emphasized that parents reach out to awareness groups that educated affected parents about safe locks for doors and tracking devices for kids. Besides, emergency responders can be better prepared to handle incidents of missing children.
Still, "we haven't totally come to consensus on what some of the best practices are" to prevent running away, Dr. Paul observed.