National Autism Association Applauds Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee's Formation of Safety Subcommittee

Oct 25, 2010, 15:58 ET from National Autism Association

WASHINGTON, Oct. 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Autism Association (NAA) is applauding the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) today following the Committee's decision late Friday to instate a subcommittee dedicated to safety issues within the autism community. Members voted unanimously to establish the subcommittee that will work to address the rising number of fatalities and injuries associated with autism-related wandering. Other safety issues that may be addressed include restraint and seclusion in schools, bullying, victimization and domestic crises.



The Committee's decision came following a presentation by NAA Board Chair Lori McIlwain and President Wendy Fournier, who provided information to the IACC about a spate of recent fatalities associated with autism-related wandering. Their request for the formation of a safety subcommittee was combined with recommendations outlining the need for medical coding specific to autism-related wandering, data collection, greater access to tracking technology, first-responder training, and federally-backed safety information for families.

The absence of an emergency broadcast alert system for minors with cognitive impairments was also addressed by NAA. Federal guidelines established for AMBER Alert criteria currently do not include at-risk minors prone to wandering as a result of brain injury, disability or other cognitive impairment. States that have adopted the "Silver Alert" Emergency Broadcast Alert System for at-risk seniors with dementia oftentimes do not allow minors with cognitive impairments into its criteria.

The Committee's vote to form a safety subcommittee had parents and advocates applauding in the background as IACC members spoke about the urgent need for action, preventative measures and emergency response that would work to reduce and prevent fatalities and injuries among those with autism spectrum disorders.

"We are extremely grateful for the IACC's decision to take immediate action in addressing these critical safety issues within the autism community," stated Wendy Fournier. "We also extend our thanks to Sheila Medlam, who bravely spoke during the public comment period about the recent loss of her 5-year-old son Mason in a tragic wandering incident."

NAA was most encouraged by the possibility of getting a medical diagnosis code established for autism-related wandering. According to Board Chair Lori McIlwain, "Children and adults within the autism community need for wandering to be recognized as a medical condition. Diagnostic coding for autism elopement will be useful in prompting critical discussions between physicians and caregivers – it will also raise the seriousness level of the condition among first responders and school administrators, and possibly provide greater caregiver access to tracking technology."

For more information about autism-related wandering prevention and response, visit For more information about autism, visit


Lori McIlwain (919) 741-1646

Wendy Fournier (401) 835-5828

SOURCE National Autism Association