Tracking Devices Help Locate Autistic Wanderers

autism gps tracker

Just two weeks after Cheryl Keaton enrolled her thirteen year old autistic daughter, Cheyenne, in the Project Lifesaver Program, its strength was tested. Indeed, Cheyenne had once again wandered away from home, but thankfully not without wearing Project Lifesaver’s transmitting device. It was this device that enabled a police officer to find her within just an hour after her disappearance.

About half of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) wander away or elope from safe, supervised places, but almost 92% of parents say their autistic child is at risk of doing so. If risk becomes reality, consequences can be extreme, and even fatal.

In regards to Cheyenne’s case, her mother recalls, “when they found her she was completely soaking wet and if she had fallen asleep she could’ve died.”

Seeing as 3.5 million Americans are on the spectrum, 1.75 million autistic Americans are at risk of wandering away from their homes. Considering the danger this accompanies, such immense numbers must be addressed.

Limiting the wandering instinct that autistic children have is tough. For one, their parents or supervisors should not be blamed, for inattentive supervision certainly is not the primary cause of autistic individuals’ tendency to wander off.

However, limiting the duration that the individual spends missing is possible. Project Lifesaver, for instance, has reduced recovery times for its PLI clients by 95% as compared to standard recovery times. The International program has been credited for bringing home an incredible 3000 “At Risk” Individuals. “At Risk” Individuals include not only individuals with ASD, but also those suffering from Alzheimer’s, Down syndrome, dementia, or other cognitive conditions.

What makes Project Lifesaver so successful? First, it equips its clients with a device that can be tied around one’s ankle or wrist and emits an individualized tracking signal. This signal can be detected by police cruisers and other search teams. Most importantly, though, the program’s first responders are given details regarding the wanderer’s symptoms and behaviors, which enables the rescuers to create a particular strategy to ensure the successful return of the “At Risk” Individual. Cheryl Keaton admitted that “it’s very hard working with people when it comes to Cheyenne’s needs because some get it, and some don’t, and [the police who rescued her] fortunately get it.” Indeed, due to their often fragile and confused state, tailoring a rescue strategy to each “At Risk” individual is key to making a successful recovery.

GPS tracking is gaining popularity for concerned parents of children who tend to wander. Last year, the annual ICare4Autism Conference was sponsored in part by Trax, a company that manufactures GPS Tracking Devices available for children and dogs. Using a Trax device, you are able to follow the signal in real time and you can also add multiple signals.

Unfortunately, many of the autistic children who go missing are not found as quickly and safely as Cheyenne Keaton was. Because children with ASD are often attracted to water, drowning is a real danger. Not all “At Risk” individuals are equipped with a tracking device like Project Lifesaver’s, so it is crucial to stay observant. If you encounter a lost child who seems to have wandered off, remember the “three S’s:” Stop to help, Seek help from the police, and Stay until they arrive.

Written by Maude Plucker

Photo source: 

http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/sheriff/lifesaver.htm

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