Elopement exhibited by school-aged children with special health care needs is a relatively low frequency problem behavior with the potential for severe negative consequences for the child and family. Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Survey of Pathways to Diagnosis and Services, our results represent one of the first empirical studies of variables that may be associated with children with special health care needs engaging in elopement. Using data from a nationally representative sample of children with special health care needs, our results revealed two variables that were statistically significant predictors of parent-reported elopement in the past year: (1) the child’s chronological age, and (2) the presence of an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis. We found that the likelihood of an elopement event was inversely related to age, but positively associated with the presence of an ASD diagnosis. Using parent-response items from the CDC data set, we selected a set of questions to screen for risk of elopement and analyzed their psychometric properties. We discuss the need for future research to validate this screening instrument for school-aged youth with special health care needs. Our study provides an initial psychometric analysis to support a potential screening instrument for elopement events among school-aged youth that needs to be validated by a longitudinal study of its predictive validity.
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Wandering off