Keeping children with Learning Disabilities Safe

When a child goes missing it can be stressful and worrying. This guide will provide information which may help to keep your loved one safe, should they go missing.

Why do children with learning disabilities go missing?

Sometimes children can wander or run away and become lost. This can happen quickly and unexpectedly. Every child is different and will go for different reasons; sometimes intentionally planned and sometimes not.

Some reasons may be:

  • Heading to a favourite place, such as the park;
  • To cope with an overstimulating environment;
  • To get to somewhere calm and quiet (sometimes to hide);
  • Feeling frustrated with a situation;
  • To explore an area they are curious about;
  • To find food;
  • Running for enjoyment.

The risks

Children with learning disabilities can be particularly vulnerable when missing. The police will often consider a child with a learning disability as ‘high risk’.

The reason for this is because they may:

  • Have a reduced sense of danger;
  • Not fear being lost;
  • Have difficulty remembering or following directions;
  • Find it difficult to identify or approach people who can help;
  • Seek areas close to traffic, trains or water;
  • Follow an unpredictable path.

Prevention tips

There are steps you can take to help keep your child safe. You may want to consider the following:

  • Put your address and telephone number in a safe place on their person. This could include sewing your details in to an item of clothing, such as a coat, or placing a card inside their pocket or wallet.
  • Talk to neighbours and people in the community who you trust about your child. People in your community may be able to help keep your child safe if they have run away or if they are lost. This could include friends, a shop keeper, bus driver or train station staff. It is not always obvious that a child has run away or is lost. However, members of your community may be more likely to consider this if you make them aware in advance.
  • Seek support if you need to. Supporting a loved one living with a Learning Disability can be challenging and there are a number of charities who can help and offer a range of guidance.
  • Use the Scent Kit and Herbert Protocol Form. Carers, family members and friends can complete this form in advance to record important information about the person at risk of going missing so that it can be shared with the police if ever needed. This is explained further below. If possible, make a safety plan with your child so they know who to approach if they are lost.

Download a Life History Form.

Help available for families

Missing People can provide support if someone goes missing via a 24/7, free and confidential helpline on 116 000.


Search Dog Heroes can send you a scent kit ready to be filled with your loved ones details