There are few behavioral concerns that hold as high of priority as ‘elopement.’ When I say that a child ‘elopes’ I mean leaving a designated area or known whereabouts. When you consider individuals who have a lack of awareness of societal rules (including safety-related rules), highly impulsive tendencies, and lack of clear communication skills and you have the trifecta of risk.
As a teacher, little strikes fear into the heart like a “Code Adam” or a “Purple Rectangle” or a “<school name> for” announcement. These announcements all translated to panic that someone was somewhere and- for the sake of honesty- a small prayer thanking the behavior gods that the missing child wasn’t one of my students. Followed by an quasi-organized, anxiety-driven search of everywhere, no matter how small or unlikely (have you ever searched under a pillow or behind a computer monitor for a 12 year-old child- because I have).
A few products have been developed to target or minimize this risk. They all carry their own risks and rewards, but they are compiled here for consideration. Items are listed in no particular order and are beneficial for a wide variety of individuals, not just those on the spectrum. (I do not receive any affiliate benefits from these companies, with the exception of Amazon Affiliate links, which go to help support this website).
a. Project Lifesaver: A small personal locating unit is in a wrist-watch sized device. The individual wears the device at all (most) times and if they are reported missing, GPS technology can be employed to track them quickly, within 1 mile. The device is $99, with an additional $30 to set-up, including a battery change every month. Programs are available to provide the system for free or reduced cost for those who need financial support.
b. Kid Smart Medical Alert: An engraved medical alert tag is included and family notification is promised, if a child is taken to a hospital or other emergency responder. Wandering Assistance ensures that family is contacted, based on the ID number on the medical alert. A wallet card is also provided with care instructions (which could be a skill target for an individual to hand over the card if stopped by police or other emergency response worker). A medical record can be maintained on your child as well. A variety of alert tags are available including necklaces and bracelets. Additionally, a shoe tag is a great alert with minimal contact for sensitive individuals and sports wrist bands are also available. Cost is $29.95 initially, with $20/year afterwards.
c. Child Locator Personal Safety Alarm: A flat-rate purchase price of $29.99, this item is a teddy bear that clips to a shoe or belt loop. A key ring contains the remote and can be kept by a family member. Pressing the button produces an intermittent beeping noise and can be used to locate the child within 150-ft. As the transmitter is a teddy bear shape, this may be more appropriate for younger children and is best used in relatively close proximity (i.e., amusement park, or for a child who hides in the home/car).
d. Door Alarms & Window Alarms: Alarms may be an option to alert a family that an individual is outside the home. If a child manages to unlock a door and leave, the family will then know which door they exited through and be able to begin a search immediately after elopement. Another item that may be important to consider is a pool alarm, which will sound an alarm if an individual is in the pool unattended, such as a child who may jump in or a pet that may have fallen in. Alarms vary in price based on sophistication of technology and whether a subscription to monitoring services is necessary.
e. Temporary Safety Tattoos: Although not a preventative measure, if a child is lost while in an unknown environment, a temporary tattoo may provide some peace of mind. Consider options for allergies (a child may be offered a snack by mall security while waiting for family), or an autism awareness tattoo. Some are even offered for school field trips. It is important to consider what information you are comfortable sharing with someone who may pass your child at a park or mall; however, before applying a temporary tattoo. Although the information may help security or emergency responders, it may also identify your child as a target for those with less-positive motives. As a low-tech option, tattoos range from $0.50 to $12. and may be worth consideration.
What items or low-tech options do you use to prevent running away?