Staying true to some of the challenges faced with autism, one of the biggest concerns is elopement. Elopement is when a child with autism wanders or runs away. It is one of the most terrifying moments for a parent, to realize your child is not within your sight.
There are many new devices and trackers that assist families in keeping track of their child, regardless of where they may wander from, whether it is a grocery store, home, school, etc.
Last year, we shared a story with a local TV station about a child who elopes very frequently and has recently gotten a service dog to assist in his safety. Thankfully, since this time last year, their fundraising goals have been met, but I am sure there are others that need this type of support.
AngelSense has made a GPS tracker to help keep kids safe. You can find out more here. There is also a bluetooth bracelet made in Birmingham, AL by Kulture City. More information about Kulture City’s program lifeBOKS is available here. Other low tech products families use include bracelets with family contact information, temporary tattoes, and shoe laces with contact information. Behavioral therapy can be instrumental in these situations to help understand what the purpose of wandering is and then, how to change this behavior.
Wow. I came across this article this morning about my sweet friend Addison. The Find My Friends app was developed after a very scary night for Addy and her family when she was able to escape her bedroom and go for a neighborhood walk alone with her ipod. Her parents wrote Steve Jobs to share their story and believe Addy was part of the reason the app was created. I remember that night like it was yesterday as Addy’s mom called me in horror to share what had happened to her baby. We were very thankful for her safe return home and hope this app will help others return home safely too.
For people unfamiliar with autism, elopement is when a person wanders or runs off without permission. The Interactive Autism Network conducted a study that said elopement occurs with about half of the children with ASD. Elopement is a major issue that parents and professionals deal with. There have been a variety of tools marketed to assist with eloping, such as the big red safety box, Project Lifesaver, and items like the “Mommy, I’m Here” child locator. The Find My Friends app is an application that helps locate friends with a street address so that situations like Addy’s can hopefully be avoided.
Elopement can happen anywhere. I have had students elope from the playground, classroom, and any other place at school. It is a horrible feeling the moment that you realize he/she has escaped yet again. There is nothing that explains the fear that you feel when you don’t know where he/she has gone. Understanding why the behavior is occurring can assist in trying to prevent further elopements, but does not always fix everything. It is important to do everything we can to prevent reoccurrances, but to also be prepared in case it happens again.
It is important for not only parents and professionals working with autism to understand about elopement, but community members and safety professionals as well. Too many times, parents are receiving blame for elopement when they are doing all they can to stop their child from running away. Educating others about elopement and letting neighbors know about children that pose a risk of elopement are great starts to further protecting our children.
The following item was helpful to me within a school setting when the child is going to be fairly closeby: