Guest post by Jacob Gutnicki
It seems there is a story almost on a daily basis about a missing child. This is not surprising as the National Crime Information Center statistics in 2014 show that there were 466,949 entries for missing children under the age of 18. These statistics, along with the following statistics on child danger, are unsettling:
- Roughly half of children with an (Autism Spectrum Disorder) ASD attempt to elope from a safe environment; a rate nearly four times higher than their unaffected siblings.
- Two in three parents of elopers reported their missing children had a “close call” with a traffic injury.
- 32% of parents reported a “close call” with a possible drowning.
- Half of families with elopers report they had never received advice or guidance about elopement from a professional.
The last bullet is particularly disconcerting as it means the parents who are most susceptible to this problem are the least prepared for dealing with the challenges of a wandering child. Fortunately, there are many technology-based resources that can help parents and schools who care for wandering children. With this in mind, I have prepared 10 resources followed by 10 tips that can support parents and schools keep wandering children safe.
- Safety Net- The Safety Net by LoJack System is a radio frequency based system designed to aid in locating missing persons who suffer from a cognitive disorder such as alzheimer’s or autism and who are at risk of wandering and becoming lost. More information can be found at http://www.lojack.com/People-at-Risk.
- Project Lifesaver- Project Lifesaver provides protection and safety to even more individuals who wander due to Autism, Down syndrome, Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other cognitive conditions. More information can be found at http://www.projectlifesaver.org/.
- Wearable ID Products- My Precious Kid has created Wearable ID products in which a child can use their ID bracelet to call mom or dad. Naturally, you should inform your child that the cell phone number is under the bracelet. More information could be found at http://www.mypreciouskid.com/products/wearable-id-products.html.
- Amber Alert- The AMBER Alert Program is a voluntary partnership between law-enforcement agencies, broadcasters, transportation agencies, and the wireless industry, to activate an urgent bulletin in the most serious child-abduction cases. As of January 2013, AMBER Alerts are automatically sent through the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) program to millions of cell phone users. More information can be found at http://www.amberalert.gov/state_contacts.htm.
- Medic Alert- First responders and medical professionals are trained to recognize MedicAlert IDs and call a 24/7 Emergency Response Center. More information can be found at http://www.medicalert.org/.
- Temporary Tattoos- Many children will not wear bracelets or clothing tagged with IDs. Temporary tattoos are a viable alternative that can be placed on the skin with water and lasts up to 7 days. The design can be removed at any point with rubbing alcohol or baby oil. Temporary tattoos are regulated by the FDA in the United States and more information could be found at http://tattooswithapurpose.com/.
- Autism Service Dogs of America- The service dog’s calming presence can minimize and often eliminate emotional outbursts, enabling the child to more fully participate in community and family activities. More information can be found at http://autismservicedogsofamerica.com/.
- Social Media- From Facebook to Twitter there is no shortage of social media tools at our disposal. These applications can be used to spread the word about a missing child. As computer users become more savvy, these tools are being used more frequently to locate a missing child. In fact, in the last few weeks there have been at least 2 instances where social media tools helped locate a missing child. It goes without saying that time is of the essence as national statistics show the first 3 hours after a child goes missing is the most critical time to conduct retrieval efforts. This is why social media tools have become so critical as it can spread the message far more rapidly than the conventional tools.
- Big Red Safety Tool Kit
A toolkit from The National Autism Association to provide information on keeping those on the autism spectrum safe.
- Wandering and Autism What We Need| What We Know Guide
Slide show presentation from The National Autism Association that provides information on keeping those on the autism spectrum safe.
10 Home Safety Tips:
- Windows: Autistic children have a tendency to climb out of windows; especially if they are left open. Install window locks. If your child bangs or hits the windows, replace them with plexiglas models to prevent injury.
- Alarms: Though your home is safe on the inside, you want to make sure you know when people are coming or going from the home. Door chimes are inexpensive and can be placed over your entrance door to alert you if your child has left the home. Additionally, a conventional alarm can alert you if your child is trying to leave your home.
- Fencing: Children with autism enjoy being outside and playing. You can protect them in your own backyard by installing a fence with a locking gate. This allows the child to play outside and provides your family with a little added security.
- Securing Hazardous Materials- Make sure medicine, detergent, and other hazardous materials are locked in a secure place.
- Baby Monitor- a monitor is another mechanism that can be used to monitor children during sleep hours or in a large house.
- Bathing Protocols- A child should always be monitored especially during bath time.
- Kitchen Safety- Knives, matches, and other dangerous objects should be kept in a secure place.
- Electrical Cords and Outlets- Check for frayed wires. Repair or replace any loose or frayed wires on all electrical devices.
- Home Heating- Examine the outside vents. They should be properly sealed and clear of obstruction to prevent carbon monoxide buildup in the house. Recheck during and after a snowstorm.
- Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors- Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors generously. These should be on each floor of the house, covering all sleeping areas.
Naturally, there is so much more that can be said about this subject. As I noted in the beginning of this post there is a story almost on a daily basis about a missing child. Hearing these stories constantly break my heart, as I know this problem could be avoided by taking a few precautions. Simply put our lack of awareness places our most vulnerable children in harmful situations. However, we can stop this epidemic by educating our parents and schools about the seriousness of this issue and by sharing resources that they will find helpful.
Jacob Gutnicki has worked in the field of Instructional Technology for the past 13 years and in the field of education for the past 20 years. During this time he was recognized in the 2008 National Profile Report as an effective practice in Instructional Technology, has authored 158 award winning grants. He developed the Laptop Institute and specialized Technology Workshop Series, coordinated District Wide contests, (i.e. MST Fair, Web Quest, and Technology Festival), developed Instructional Manuals that integrate technology into the curriculum, and received the Chancellor's Excellence in Leadership Award.