Parents, ABA can help reduce your child’s wandering behavior.

By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

Founding Editor,

Sarah Kupferschmidt, BCBA, recently published an article in The Huffington Post titled Autism and Wandering: How Applied Behaviour Analysis can Help Keep Kids Safe.

Sarah noted that as many as “49% of children with autism have wandered from a safe situation at least one time” such as school or their own homes, only to end up in dangerous and, oftentimes, life-threatening situations.  Such situations are all too common for parents of children with autism, and present serious challenges on a number of different levels.

Sarah then discussed how Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) can be used to reduce wandering, improve the safety of children, and improve their parents’ wellbeing at the same time.  She outlined three basic steps:

1) Determine the function of wandering behavior.   For example, the child could wander to escape an aversive situation, or to get to a preferred place.  The cause of wandering will determine the course of treatment.

2) Design an intervention based on the function.  The goal of ABA is to teach skills to the child to obtain similar types of consequences with more appropriate behaviors.

3) Track the progress of the intervention.  The signature of any ABA intervention is the accountability it places on the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA).  This is done by meticulously measuring rates of wandering over time.  If wandering significantly decreases in a reasonable amount of time, you know the treatment is working.  If wandering remains stable or increases, you need to change something.

Aside from treatment specifics, Sarah diligently pointed out that not everyone has ready access to ABA services.  Though demand for ABA is booming, the same demand also means long waitlists for services, and higher-than-expected expenses.

To read Sarah’s call to action for making ABA services more accessible to families, read the full article here.

Let us know what you think of Sarah’s article in the comments below, and don’t forget to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles, and free monthly issues, directly to your inbox!


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