School is well under way for another school year and the teachers are finally settling down. I have found that each year I have had to address the issue of wandering or eloping children. Most of the students involved have autism. A 2012 study found that nearly half of children with autism spectrum disorder will wander away from a safe environment with more than half of those wandering into dangerous situations.
If you have ever lost a child, with a disability or not, for a moment or longer, you know the heart stopping feeling. You must catch your breath, senses and all available resources to find the child. I am pleased to report that all the children I have been involved with (or got to know after their eloping began) over the years have been found safe and unharmed. I praise God for their safe return!
There are some great resources to help prepare for such events and possibly prevent or slow down some escapes. The National Autism Association offers free materials for caregivers and first responders through their Big Red Safety Box http://nationalautismassociation.org/big-red-safety-box/
One of our students who has become a frequent fleer has warranted a tracking device so I was given the task of researching GPS systems for students. There are an amazing number of new devices available. First, we had to determine specific features for this student and I narrowed my recommendations down to this list of four devices:
Trax Play, AngelSense, GPS Guardian and PocketFinder
There are many others in a watch format but we determined that type would not work for this student. If he was tied to his smart phone like most teens we could have added an app like the one used by my friend and me when we took our road trip last year. My friend was afraid I might leave her at some point so she wanted her husband to know where he could locate her. That point almost happened in Nashville on the way home but we made up.
As I was researching all the different devices I realized that some type of device or app would probably work well for most teens. Some come with geofencing where parents can set up perimeters around geographic areas and if the child moves outside of the area a warning is sent to the parent. Great for those teens who are starting to drive.
For all those wandering children, please stop