Starting this fall, wandering will be added to the list of descriptors doctors can use to diagnose individuals with autism, intellectual disability and other conditions.
The addition comes after a federal committee gave the final go-ahead on a proposal to make wandering a secondary classification that could be applied to individuals with developmental disabilities or other diagnoses.
Doctors will be able to start applying the new label as early as October.
“The proposed code is really intended to promote better data collection and understanding of this behavior,” Coleen Boyle, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities told a meeting of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee on Tuesday.
Boyle said that more than 6,000 public comments poured in earlier this year in response to the proposal to add wandering to the diagnostic coding system clinicians use, which is known as the International Classification of Diseases, or ICD-9-CM.
The bulk of the public response was positive, Boyle said.
However, the proposal was not without its detractors. Some disability advocates argued that it was inappropriate to apply a medical diagnosis to a person’s tendency to bolt from home or school since they said there’s no research to suggest that wandering is anything more than a behavior.
Now that the new code has been approved, guidance on how to use the wandering classification will be sent to clinicians in late August or early September, CDC officials said.