Wanderers often seem compelled to wander, which means that locked doors and fences aren't always enough to curb the behavior and caregivers can't possibly be vigilant all day and night, nor should they be asked to lock their loved ones in escape-proof settings.
The result of "wandering" can be tragic, and most of us have read stories of autistic people drowned in pools or dying of exposure.
To address this issue, the CDC has created a somewhat controversial new medical code which can be added to certain diagnoses, including autism, Alzheimers, and dementia. According to a CDC press release:
The , effective October 1, 2011, is designed to promote better data collection for and understanding of wandering and to prompt important discussions about safety among healthcare providers, caregivers, and the person with a disability to the fullest extent possible.More on Wandering and Autism
Wandering places children and adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) or other disorders in harmful and potentially life-threatening situations--making this an important safety issue for individuals affected and their families and caregivers. Children and adults with ASDs and other developmental disabilities are at higher risk of wandering off than are children and adults without these disorders or other cognitive disorders....
This code is intended to capture information about individuals, with any condition classified in the ICD, who wander. Wandering was deleted as a subcode under the Alzheimer's and dementia code and added as a condition to be noted in association with disorders classified elsewhere [V40.31]. The intention is to provide a way to document, understand, and improve the situation for individuals who are at risk of injury or death due to dangerous wandering. Wandering should be coded if documented in the medical record by the provider (i.e., physician).
The wandering code is not linked to a specific diagnosis, nor is it part of the diagnostic codes used for autism or intellectual disabilities. The ICD-9-CM classifies behaviors and risk factors in addition to diseases and syndromes; as such, the wandering code is used in conjunction with other diagnostic and symptom or procedure codes.
- Safety and the Autistic Runaway
- A Medical Code for Autistic Wandering: What's Your Opinion?
- Half of All Children with Autism Wander or Bolt
- Help Support Project Lifesaver
New Diagnostic Code for Autistic Wandering Approved for October, 2011