Wandering is a serious concern for families of children with autism and developmental disabilities. A recent national survey of parents found that almost half of children with autism have gone missing long enough to cause serious concern about their safety. The tendency of individuals with autism to wander, or “elope,” as the behavior is clinically known, puts them at risk of injury, trauma or even death. The social and communication challenges that characterize autism place these individuals at even greater risk.

In response to the need for additional safety measures, The Help Group was proud to be the sponsor of California Senate Bill 1127, authored by Senator Norma Torres. The bill expands California’s current Silver Alert program, designed to quickly respond to missing individuals who are elderly, to include missing individuals with developmental disabilities and cognitive impairments. Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill this past week, and it will take effect January 1, 2015.

“Our thanks to Governor Brown for signing SB 1127 and to Senator Torres for her leadership on this critical issue, “ said Help Group President & CEO Dr. Barbara Firestone. “This legislation is a key safety measure to support families of children with autism and developmental disabilities and reduce harm to children.”

Dr. Louis A. Vismara, Senior Policy Advisor to Senator Steinberg, and Co-Founder of the UC Davis MIND Institute, will provide a comprehensive examination of SB 1127, as well as other strategies, interventions, and public policies to keep children with autism safe, at the 2014 Help Group Summit. Dr. Vismara will be joined on this panel by Dr. Olga Solomon, Assistant Professor, Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy at USC, who will share her latest research on wandering from the parents’ perspectives, and from the perspectives of teachers, advocates and other professionals who work with children at risk for wandering. Dr. Solomon will also explore the role of different institutions such as schools, the police, child protective services, and institutions that authorize publicly funded interventions and services for children with autism.

The Help Group Summit 2014 will be held on Friday, October 17th and Saturday, October 18th at the Skirball Cultural Center. This session, “It Takes a Village: Addressing Wandering and Missing Individuals with Autism: The Risks, Interventions, Technology and Public Policies, will take place Saturday morning. To register for the Summit and reserve your place at this session, please click here.