Autism – Tips for Parents: 8 Things To Do When Your Autistic Child Runs Away or Wonders Off

Autism – Tips for Parents: 8 Things To Do When Your Autistic Child Runs Away or Wonders Off

Autistic and Lost

Autistic and Lost

Being a single parent of 3 children, one of whom is within the Autistic Spectrum, I come up upon many challenges on a daily basis that can make one feel very alone.

It is good to share these experiences in hopes of helping one another, as well as to benefit from the therapeutic act of sharing in itself.

I have decided to create a special page on the website dedicated to the daily challenges faced by those who are affected by Autism.

The more I think about it, the more I think that this is the most valuable content on the website.

Please feel free to leave comments and send direct email if you wish to discuss anything within these pages in more detail.

My 8 year old son, Logan, who was diagnosed as being within the Autistic Spectrum at 18 months old, absolutely loves McDonald’s French Fries. He loves them so much in fact, that he will go to any extent in his efforts to obtain them.

The French Fries must be prepared, packaged, and served in a very specific manner: 2 Orders of Large French Fries, in a large bag, with napkins, one straw, and delivered with a small cup of ice water with a cap.

Today, when Logan decided it was time to go to McDonald’s, and neither I, nor his grandmother, were able to react quickly enough to meet his needs, he quietly slid out the rear sliding door of our home, and went on a journey to seek out the almighty French Fry.

It was probably about 8 – 10 minutes before we realized he was gone. We have been through this before so we have a system; Luke (Logan’s twin brother), goes right on skateboard, Skylar (Logan’s 11 yr old sister) goes left on Bicycle, Dad (Mr Moneymakerspy) goes up the middle in the Towncar to make a sweep of the block, and Grandma dials 911, grabs the poster board with Logan’s picture, and starts an immediate “Have you seen this child” campaign. If any of this seems premature or as an avoidable situation, keep reading – we are highly experienced in this “once a year” situation.

Here are some important things to remember when a loved one “takes off” or wonders away.


  • Don’t Panic, take control, establish a leadership role and instill a strong sense of confidence among others involved.


  • Be sure that the person is really missing and not hiding, playing a “trick”, or hide-n-seek. Check beds, closets, and even up in the backyard tree.


  • Have a plan with specific tasks that get executed systematically. One person calls 911, one person goes to the park with poster picture, one person stays home etc.


  • Dial 911, and most importantly, DO NOT hesitate to call police, not even for a second. You are not bothering them, they will not blame you, you will not be viewed as a parent who “can’t keep track of your kids”. This will also get your loved one back much quicker, and safer, than taking on the search efforts yourself. There is an old saying “You can’t out run a Motorola” and the same rings true for a lost child. Nothing will get your child back quicker and safer than a bunch of seriously determined, well trained, police officers with Motorola Radios – More on this later.


  • Know you child’s routes, let him or her lead the way when on walks, pay close attention to favorite spots, items of interest etc.


  • Have pictures ready for distribution, large ones and small ones. Give them to everyone you come into contact with. Make sure you have extras to give law enforcement even after you have found you child, if it happened once, it may happen again. Police officers usually welcome any proactive investigative tools.


  • Have a description sheet ready with a picture and places to write down the type of clothes he or she is wearing on a particular day. Include current weight and height etc.


  • Stay confident in knowing that you have the bases covered. Keep circling the person’s familiar environment. Expect that your child or loved one will be back home safe within 30 minutes or less if you react quickly.


Some states have a program called “Project Life Saver” which provides your loved one with an Radio Frequency Bracelet. The bracelets frequency can be tracked by local law enforcement and has helped to rescue many autistic children as well as elderly folks with Alzheimer’s. We participated in this program when we lived in Florida, but now live in an area where we are unable to get support for it. Search for “Project Life Saver” using Bing or Google to find out if the program is available in your area.

Resources for Parents Resources for Parents

Brainworks Guide to Sensory Dieting for Children with Autistism and other Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD)

Vaccinations – Get all the Facts about Vaccines before you decide

Essential Guide to Autism

Aspergers Manual

Star Galaxy Ceilings – Milkyway in your child’s bedroom



If there are no state funded “Tracking” programs in your area, at the very least, get a Medic Alert Bracelet. My son has one and it has important information for anyone coming into contact with you child such as his or her health issues, communication skills, and who they should call. These bracelets are very reasonable and very durable.

Today we found my son in about 25 minutes thanks to local law enforcement, a good plan, and a lot of help from above. I actually found Logan, but a local police officer was also coming at him from the other direction, the officer had a picture of Logan on his dashboard and knew his “favorite places” due to another incident a few months ago. This is why it is good to share information and involve the police ASAP. You absolutely must overcome any hesitation brought on from guilt or embarrassment.

For those who are already visualizing the email you are going to write me about keeping track of my kids, save your digital energy and instead, go volunteer at the nearest facility with services for Autistic Children. Your efforts will be more appreciated and yield better rewards

If you have any personal experience with similar situations or would like to comment please feel free to do so as this is an open forum. All judgmental opinions are swiftly, and non-democratically, sent to the trash folder and their authors blocked. – Moneymakerspy




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  • Libbey, thank you for highlighting this very important detail. Law enforcement, other groups, and individuals, will usually take a much more empathetic approach as soon as you reveal that the child (or adult) in need of assistance is special needs, Autistic, etc. As mentioned above, the officer who arrived at the scene when Logan “ran away” had Logan’s photo taped to his dashboard from a previous incident. He, and his on-duty colleagues showed great concern and understanding. All of those who responded that day reassured me that they were happy to help and that I should not hesitate to do the same thing in the future if needed. This type of community support is essential to keeping things manageable, not just logistically, but psychologically as well as it can be very reassuring to know that others are nearby to support you in case of an emergency.

  • Libby Cunningham says:

    Make sure when you call the police that you tell them that the child is special needs. My 20 year old got mad at the age of 18 and started walking down the interstate. He was 2 miles away when the police found him. If I had not told them he was autistic they may have interpreted the situation differently.

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