Treatment of elopement in individuals with developmental disabilities: a systematic review

Res Dev Disabil. 2009 Jul-Aug;30(4):670-81. doi: 10.1016/j.ridd.2008.11.003. Epub 2008 Dec 31.


We reviewed studies involving the treatment of elopement in individuals with developmental disabilities. Systematic searches of three electronic databases, journals, and reference lists identified 10 studies meeting the inclusion criteria. These studies were evaluated in terms of: (a) participants, (b) procedures used to assess elopement, (c) intervention procedures, (d) results of the intervention, and (e) certainty of evidence. Across the 10 studies, intervention was provided to a total of 53 participants aged 3-47 years. Assessment procedures included anecdotal staff reports, participant interviews, direct observation, and modified analog functional analysis. Intervention approaches included differential reinforcement, extinction, functional communication training, response blocking, non-contingent reinforcement, shaping, and scheduled exercise. Positive outcomes were reported in 80% of the reviewed studies. The evidence base suggests that function-based assessment (e.g. functional analysis procedures) and function-based treatments (e.g. functional communication training) may be most effective in the treatment of elopement in this population. Directions for future research are offered.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Developmental Disabilities / therapy*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Wandering Behavior