How to Reduce Wandering


Some children with ASD leave one environment to visit a favorite place, escape a stressful or overstimulating situation, or because of enjoyment to run and explore. Regardless of the reason, parents and teachers try to implement strategies designed to decrease the amount of wandering.

  • Determine the function of the wandering. Why is the child leaving the environment? This may require some basic data collection and noting what happens directly before the wandering and where the child goes. If the child is wandering to achieve a goal, let them explore the goal in a safe and supervised manner. For example, if the child wanders to the secretary’s office to gain her attention, schedule various errands throughout the day that brings the student to the office. If the purpose of wandering is to avoid something, the issue must be addressed and accommodations put in place. For example, if the child is wandering to avoid loud noises, the student can be provided with headphones or a break during times when the noise level increases.
  • Develop and implement strategies that can replace the wandering behaviour and teach the student to cope with the triggers.
  • Ensure that triggers are included in the IEP and/or behaviour plan so that school personnel can work on recommended strategies.
  • Use social stories to teach the child about the dangers of wandering and the appropriate ways to cope with triggers.
  • If the child wanders frequently, parents and school personnel may consider some identification system, such as; personal identity card, ID bracelet, or necklace.