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Our Statement Regarding the Student Elopement Incident at DDSB

Please note there are hyperlinks in this letter


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - Hamilton, Ontario - February 5, 2024



Image is the Balance Support and Self Care Studios business logo

In January, a seven year-old autistic student eloped from school without a jacket. He was found ten minutes away at the end of wooded area, near a busy four-lane road.


It is by sheer luck that this incident did not end in tragedy.


Simply put, "eloping is when an autistic child runs or wanders away from their caregiver (or a safe, supervised environment) to a place that isn’t safe or supervised". A study found that "49% of autistic children were reported to elope or wander, with 26% missing long enough to cause concern. Of those who went missing, 24% were in danger of drowning and 65% were in danger of traffic injury".


The reasons for why an autistic child may elope include:


  1. Getting away from something they don’t want.

  2. Going toward something they do want.

  3. Craving and enjoying the sensory experience of running.

  4. Getting distracted and not realizing they’re no longer with their caregiver.

  5. Struggling with impulse control.

  6. Perceiving running as safer than staying in the current environment.

  7. Thinking that running is a game and not understanding the dangers.


It is every parent's nightmare to discover that their child is missing from school or home. So, it is vital that proactive measures are put in place to prevent elopement from occurring.


We support the calls for a full investigation into the incident and for increased funding into Special Education. However, it is vital that we also look at how schools support disabled and neurodiverse students. The system needs a fundamental re-think as the methods and strategies that are currently in place simply do not work. Hiring more EAs won't help if schools continue to use outdated models that disadvantage students, especially those with disability.


To support students better, school boards and the Ministry of Education need to look at new ways that are affirming and inclusive to children with all types of bodies and brains.


Balance SSCS supports looking to find solutions that will not only keep autistics but all disabled and vulnerable individuals safe. We are also available to take part in those discussions and advocacy efforts.


For more information, please contact our team at balanceSSCS@gmail.com 


Balance Support & Self Care Studios was created with parents and caregivers of individuals with diverse needs in mind. We recognize the value of the staff and community. We are committed to striving for excellence through inclusiveness, team collaboration, quality of services, and the participation and contributions of volunteers and community members. To learn more, please check out our website 


References:


"How to Manage Eloping With the Embracing Autism Method", Kaylene George: https://autisticmama.com/manage-eloping-embracing-autism-method/


"Occurrence and family impact of elopement in children with autism spectrum disorders" (2012), Connie AndersonJ Kiely LawAmy DanielsCatherine RiceDavid S MandellLouis HagopianPaul A Law: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23045563/


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