Strategies For Parents Of The Bolting Child

Bolting is a serious behavior for some children with autism. Safety comes into play here. Parents have asked me, "How do I keep my child from running off, in the house and out in public, even just while taking a walk?"

If your child is capable of understanding a reward system, use it for when they stay with you. You can use a little board as a token economy system, but have the tokens come quickly at first so your child wants to earn them instead of taking off.

Make sure a bigger reward is there for when a certain amount of tokens are earned. When I mention "bigger" reward, I mean it could be as little as a jelly bean. It just has to be motivating enough. If he child starts to take off, it prolongs access to the jellybean, because a token has not been earned.

At first this type of practice will go on very often throughout the day. Once your child gets the idea, more tokens can be earned and at longer time increments.

Another option is to start with a full token board, and each time your child runs off, a token is taken off. You can do this with a time schedule, for example, if after five minutes the child still has a token on the board a reward is given. If none are left, no reward is earned, tokens go back on and it starts again.

If a child is capable of learning stop and go, that should be taught as soon as possible. The game of "red light, green light" is also a good idea.

Safety Issues For Bolting Children

There are some children that do not respond to positive reinforcement when it comes to this. This could be because of possible impulsive reactions or actions, or plain defiance. If a child just won't comply or cannot comply then I have seen people use restraints, because of what a safety issue it is.

When you are in your house, one can put special locks on doors and windows as well as alarms if necessary, too. One client I worked with, for example, had to put triple locks on all windows and doors because her daughter would often take off.

Important! Another good idea is to have your child wear a medical bracelet with all important information on it, so if someone finds your child they can look at the bracelet and know it's a child with a disability and go from there.