“OMG My Son Is Beginning To Wander”

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Recently my son has begun to wander.  Sadly enough, he thinks it’s funny and does not understand how dangerous it is.  First it started small…He would walk down the aisle in the grocery store instead of staying near me.  I would call to him to “stay with mommy” and would give him a stern, serious look.  It seemed to work as he would walk back and remain close to me for the rest of the time in the grocery store.  A few weeks later, while in another store, he walked one aisle over.  Then he walked two aisles over.  He ignored my calls this time and I ended up leaving the store because I could not focus on getting the things I needed if he continued to do that (I only have about a 20-30 min timeframe with him).  In addition to watching him, I had to also watch my daughter and prevent her from following her brother.  The scariest moment for me came when we took our first trip to Disney World (will post about that later).  After getting off a particular ride, MJ thought it would be funny to follow another family off of the ride.  We all got off of the ride and looked around and though it was only about 8 seconds, we did not see him! My heart sank to my feet and I yelled out his name several times.  There he was following another family and laughing! Laughing!??? We sat down and spoke to him about what he did right then and there.  While we hoped that he understood everything that we were saying, we were not sure that he did (he was still smiling).  About three weeks ago his teacher sent a note home saying that he wandered away during recess.  He was hiding behind a tree away from where his classmates were playing.  She reprimanded him and he didn’t like it one bit but I am glad she addressed it with him.  A few times a year I hear about special needs kids that wander off to never be found or end up being found dead.  I thought I would never have to worry about this.  MJ has always been a homebody and LOVES staying at home.  He used to always stay near us when out and about.   I am praying that the wandering behavior stops completely but right now we are on our guard and are trying to teach him how to stay safe!

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12 thoughts on ““OMG My Son Is Beginning To Wander”

  1. Yes it is scary! I can not tell you how many times we have had that happen. I don’t have any advice. We have noticed this behavior decreases with age and communication. It seems like your son does communicate verbally, though. If we are away from home I try to bring an extra adult. That has helped but not a guarantee that he won’t wander away. Most people have a difficult time comprehending what this is like. Hang in there.

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  2. My son has been fitted with a tracking device from the local sheriff’s office. It is GPS. It looks like a weird watch, with a thin band and a thick face, which is blank. It is free. Absolutely no cost. Funded by the feds.
    I can call the officer who changes our battery each month and get a location on him or call the sheriff to do it,.
    It makes me feel tons better.
    Make sure your son knows your phone number. My son was separated from me for ten minutes and my phone rang while I was having our group fan out for him and it was the police, with my son, who had given them the phone number immediately.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That is such a scary situation! I see this all the time with students and clients. Without knowing your son the best advice I can give right now is this: Make sure the behavior you want (him staying with you) produces a better outcome than the behavior you don’t want (wandering). Whatever behavior “pays off” the best will continue to happen. For many kids I work with reprimands are kind of fun, so they continue to wander because it produces that outcome…in many ways attention is attention.
    Here are some strategies you could try that I’ve had success with in the past:
    1. Make some rule cards (you can use pics or words or both depending on his level) and review the rules right before you go anywhere that he could wander. Examples: “stay next to mommy”, “listen to mommy” etc.
    2. If he follows the rule he can earn something special after. Maybe that’s playing with a favorite toy on the ride home, maybe he can pick out a special snack at the store, maybe he gets 5 minutes of a special game at home…lots of options! (Eventually when he hasn’t wandered in a long time you can fade these rewards out and just praise him).
    3. If he does not follow the rule he does not get that special thing.
    4. When he’s staying with you give him lots of praise (“great staying with mommy!”)
    5. Give him something to do. At the store for example his “job” can be putting the items in the basket. Or getting something from the shelf.
    6. If he does wander try keeping the reaction to a minimum. When you get him I would just silently bring him back to where you were before he left and then when you get there show him the rule card and review the rules with him. Keep it brief though. Then for the rest of the trip he needs to keep one hand on the shopping cart the whole time. If the hand comes off guide him to put it back.
    7. If he wanders and he’s somewhere he likes being, when you get him leave if possible (that way staying with mommy means longer at chuck e cheese for example but wandering cuts the fun short). If you can’t leave you could do a time out. So when you get him he has to sit for 2 minutes without getting to do anything fun. Don’t talk with him during the time out. After time out review the rules.

    Good luck! I know this is a scary thing for a mommy to see happening.

    Liked by 1 person

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