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Wandering. Not a good vacation activity.


stopsignDo you worry about your child wandering off ? If it’s a worry while at home, it’s bound to be a major concern while on vacation. There are some things that you can do to prevent this and some useful resources that you can use, if they become necessary.

Of course, resources that you may need for this while on vacation are probably just as useful at home.

Let’s start with the simplest precaution. For this I’m grateful to Barbara Cooper and Nancy Widdows of Super Kids, which is now a part of the Southfield Center in Darien, CT.

How simple ? Enough to be elegant. Print out a stop sign and tape it to the doors. Barbara and Nancy had a problem with a couple of kids trying to run off sometime during sessions at Super Kids. They never got far but it was a worry. Posting the stop sign on the door stopped these attempts with nothing else needed. It’s the visual versus verbal thing. So do print a couple out and take them and some tape with you. Put one on the hotel room door and one on the door to the balcony, if you have one.

There are some excellent tips online. One that stands out is from Shelly McLaughlin at Pathfinders for Autism  parent-tips-when-they-wander-or-run-away . Her tips, in turn, point to some excellent further resources.

Next, a bit of planning will help. Check out the layout of the hotel/resort that you plan to visit. Does the front door lead directly to a main road or is the resort situated on its own plot complete with fence and a gate for security at the entrance ? Obviously the latter is the better. You’ll be in a position to alert security staff about your child and to contact you if they try to leave the premises.

You can also check with the hotel about extra security for doors and windows. For example, Tradewinds Resorts in St Petersburg Beach has an available “safety kit” that covers that and more. By the way, elopement prevention will be a major component of our “Autism Readiness” certification program as we roll it out to hotels nationwide.

You should look at baby-proofing devices that are primarily intended to stop neurotypical toddlers from wandering. Why might these work ? The real trick to most of them is that, in order to operate them, they require some executive functioning and some fine motor skills. That defeats most NT toddlers but not too many adults. If your child, of any age, has difficulties with executive functioning and/or fine motor, these could be very helpful. Home Depot has a reasonable selection. Babies R Us has more.

With these, you’ll need to look for two special features when traveling. You’ll need things that don’t attach permanently or damage surfaces (hotels may not take kindly to you leaving screw holes everywhere) and it would be sensible to look for the lightest, most easily transported devices. Of course, try them at home to see if they are effective before you take them anywhere.

We found a kit that seems to cover this well from Travel-Tot in New Jersey. Their Kit looks good but, to date, we haven’t been able to reach them for further questions.


What is “Plan B” ? It makes sense to take some precautions against your child actually running off, no matter how much you’ve done to prevent this. Here, the good resource is Dennis Debbaudt who is an expert in the field and who has an Autism Emergency Contact Form. This form is designed for you to have descriptive details of your child, including a spot for a recent picture, together with your contact details. If you take a couple of copies of this with you, you can get them copied and distributed to anybody assisting in the search for your child. The PDF for this is available at: Autism Emergency Contact Form .


There had to be an app for it, didn’t there ? This is from a highly unusual source . It comes from the FBI ! It’s free and available from the App Store on iTunes. It is the electronic equivalent of the Emergency Contact Form. Look for The FBI’s Child ID App.


Here’s another hi-tech resource. If your child does wander off, why not locates them with a GPS device ? One good one comes from Star Kids by LockStarTM.   StarkidsGPS.com .  With this, hopefully your search for your wandering child will be short and successful and you won’t even have had time to organize a search.


Travel safely.


  1. Thank you for the mention. I am to founder of Travel Tot. Our kit is designed to childproof one room. This kit has everything from outlet covers to pinch guards, cabinet locks to a forehead thermometer. This kit is different because it is truly temporary. The pieces go on strong and come off clean. It is all very easy to install and can be reused your next trip. Our website had tons of articles, research and a detailed list of everything you need to be prepared to travel in an instant. http://www.travel-tot.com

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