The new "controversial" medical code for wandering has been approved by the ICD-9-CM Coordination and Maintenance Committe. I say controversial, but it isn't a controversy for anybody except the self-appointed guardians of autism's virtue, ASAN.
It is nice to know that ASAN and their ilk don't have much pull when it comes to dealing with issues like this. These self-advocate groups want to make autism into some sort of civil rights movement, saying things like this new wandering code will "enable abuse and restrict the civil rights" of people with disabilites, while the rest of world seems to understand that wandering is a serious safety issue.
Many children with autism have died because they wandered away from home and yet ASAN is worried about some hypothetical restriction of civil rights. As a parent, I would much rather my children have their "civil rights" violated and live to tell the tale rather than preserving those hypothetical rights and ending up dead.
I have to wonder (yet again) just who ASAN thinks they are advocating for. It certainly isn't the needs to the majority of people (or children) who have autism.
It has been estimated that almost half of all children with autism between the ages of 4 and 10 wander. And even more frightening, one out of three of the children don't have the communication skills to even tell anyone their name or where they live. Does ASAN think their stance against a medical code for wandering is in the best interest of these children?
If you want more information on wandering and autism, please visit AWAARE.
Below is the CDC's press release on the new code.
ICD-9-CM Code for Wandering
The ICD-9-CM code for wandering , effective October 1, 2011, is designed to promote better data collection for and understanding of wandering and to prompt important discussions about safety among healthcare providers, caregivers, and the person with a disability to the fullest extent possible.
Wandering places children and adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) or other disorders in harmful and potentially life-threatening situations—making this an important safety issue for individuals affected and their families and caregivers. Children and adults with ASDs and other developmental disabilities are at higher risk of wandering off than are children and adults without these disorders or other cognitive disorders.
At the request of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, a Safety Subcommittee was convened to address wandering and other safety issues for children and adults with ASDs. CDC, as a member of the Subcommittee, submitted a proposal for the wandering code to the ICD-9-CM Coordination and Maintenance Committee for consideration at the March 2011 meeting, which represented the final opportunity for additions/revisions to the ICD-9-CM until 2014. As part of the Coordination and Maintenance Committee’s usual procedures, proposals were open for public comment for 4 weeks, and revisions to the ICD-9-CM were announced online on June 10, taking effect October 1.
This code is intended to capture information about individuals, with any condition classified in the ICD, who wander. Wandering was deleted as a subcode under the Alzheimer’s and dementia code and added as a condition to be noted in association with disorders classified elsewhere [V40.31]. The intention is to provide a way to document, understand, and improve the situation for individuals who are at risk of injury or death due to dangerous wandering. Wandering should be coded if documented in the medical record by the provider (i.e., physician).
The wandering code is not linked to a specific diagnosis, nor is it part of the diagnostic codes used for autism or intellectual disabilities. The ICD-9-CM classifies behaviors and risk factors in addition to diseases and syndromes; as such, the wandering code is used in conjunction with other diagnostic and symptom or procedure codes.