When an autistic child wanders away from parents or a caregiver into unfamiliar surroundings, they can have a difficult time finding their way back. Their sense of time and distance might be altered, and they can travel long distances before they are noticed as being missing. Autistic children might be less aware of the dangers posed by traffic or might be attracted to dangerous areas such as railroad tracks or swimming pools.
Caregivers can take certain steps to help ensure their autistic child’s safety:
· Talk to neighbors about the child’s tendency to wander and how they should not be afraid to call you if the child is seen away from home.
· Better secure homes or care facilities with reinforced door and window locks and audible chime systems that ring when someone enters or leaves the home through any door.
· Make sure the child knows how to swim and understands the dangers of swimming alone, especially in areas with surf or currents.
Despite best efforts from concerned family members or caregivers, wandering incidents will occur. Traditionally, once a child is reported as missing, caregivers will give rescue personnel a description of the individual and also give their best guesses as to where the child might travel but that is normally the best they can do. Hence, rescue efforts can not only be very costly for cash-strapped law enforcement agencies, but they are also emotionally debilitating for both the caregivers and the lost child.
New technologies exist that allow caregivers and authorities the ability to quickly pinpoint the exact location of a lost autistic child. Wearable location bracelets are one of these new technologies. Location bracelets are watchband type products with a special clasp that requires the work of two individuals to remove. Location devices need to be properly designed so they are comfortable to wear, and unobtrusive, so the wearer does not feel they are always being “monitored” by parents who are concerned with their autistic child’s safety.
The cellular-based location capabilities of the bracelets have enabled the speedy rescue of hundreds of children and adults with special needs. Recently, a young boy with Asperger’s syndrome in Spokane, Washington failed to come home from elementary school. The child’s mother knew he had a tendency to wander, so she immediately called 911 and then was able to contacted the company, who activated her son’s bracelet. The device sent its location to 911 dispatchers who were then able to relay the information to officers on the ground. The child was found 15 blocks away in only 10 minutes, and was safely returned to his family without incident.
For families and caregivers who are concerned for their autistic child’s safety, preventing the child from wandering is a constant worry. Even with all the physical safeguards, wandering can and will occur, especially as the child grows older and is more likely and able to tamper with their parents’ precautions. Embracing technology such as wearable location devices gives caregivers peace of mind and greatly improves the odds of a lost child being rescued quickly and unharmed.