Nearly half of all children with autism will wander off or runaway before the age of 17, according to a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
In Central Virginia, Commonwealth Autism Services works to train first responders on how to approach and interact with children on the autism spectrum.
"For law enforcement, it's important to know the things that would trigger a catastrophic event," said Didi Zaryczny, with Commonwealth Autism Services. "For example, if you approach the individual who maybe has been reported missing and you have your sirens on, that could make that child run away."
Parents are also encouraged to share information about their child with authorities before an incident happens and panic sets in.
"Let your firefighters know, let your dispatch know, let your emergency personnel know that you have a child with autism," said Zaryczny. "Let them know what kind of tendencies they have."
Children with autism can wear a "dog tag" style necklace that provides a potential helper with information about the child. There are also wristbands to indicate a child is nonverbal with pictures a child can point to communicate what he or she needs.
There is a 911 information sheet parents of children with autism call fill out and file with dispatch before an incident happens.