Dr. Coleen Boyle of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said the approval of a new medical diagnosis code for wandering was approved at meeting of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee and will be implemented in October.
"It is our hope that the recognition of wandering as a medical diagnosis will bring opportunities for the development of resources including training for schools and caregivers, emergency search personnel protocols, financial assistance for safety equipment and support and education for families," Lori McIlwain, chairwoman of the National Autism Association, said in a statement. "Far too many of these stories end in tragedy."
Wandering incidents appear to be on the rise among those who have autism, McIlwain says.
Children with autism often have an impaired sense of danger, they are at serious risk of injury, trauma or death and drowning is the leading external cause of death among individuals diagnosed with autism, McIlwain said.
Autism-related wandering incidents also present a unique set of challenges to first responders and search personnel because many with autism are non-verbal and unable to respond to rescuers.