Wednesday, September 2, 2015

10 Tips + 10 Resources that Use Tech to Keep Wandering Children Safe

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.
autistic children tend to wander

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.

10 Resources
  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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.
  9. Big Red Safety Tool Kit 
    A toolkit from The National Autism Association to provide information on keeping those on the autism spectrum safe.
  10. 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:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Securing Hazardous Materials- Make sure medicine, detergent, and other hazardous materials are locked in a secure place.
  5. Baby Monitor- a monitor is another mechanism that can be used to monitor children during sleep hours or in a large house.
  6. Bathing Protocols- A child should always be monitored especially during bath time.
  7. Kitchen Safety- Knives, matches, and other dangerous objects should be kept in a secure place.
  8. Electrical Cords and Outlets- Check for frayed wires. Repair or replace any loose or frayed wires on all electrical devices.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.


  1. I recently had a field trip with my 4th grade students, where we had to take a 40 minute subway ride uptown from Brooklyn. While we had them utilize a buddy system that seemed resourceful and effective, it is good to know that they are other viable options out there, especially in the case of an emergency. That being said, we awareness is the most important thing when it comes to the maintaining the safety of a child, and definitely "the more, the merrier." In this particular case, we had two classrooms with four teachers total, as well as 2 parents from each class. All in all, one adult was responsible for at least a group of 6 students, in which we were able to be in charge of three buddy groups.

  2. This is an excellent article on educating people on how to prevent a child from wandering from home and/or school. Being proactive can save your child or students' life. Any child can decide to wander from home or school, so we as a community need to be mindful about our surroundings and where our children are at all times. This tragedy can be avoided.

  3. I appreciate this article because it hits very close to home for me. I work with children on the spectrum and do have the constant worry that some of my students have eloping behaviors. I want to share this information with the parents of my students!

    Jennifer Marin

  4. As we travel at light speed through this technological age, we can clearly note the many advantages and disadvantages these electronic advances bring. While many harp on the downside, I believe the pros outweigh the cons and in that regard we should keep pushing, keep on innovating, keep on inventing.
    One of the best benefits to this technological age is the fact that we can use it to protect the weakest and most vulnerable members of our society, i.e. , young children and the elderly.
    Not to jump to far ahead, or disregard laws that protect the privacy of citizens, but I have long thought that a small GPS monitoring device should be embedded under the skin of willing adults and young children in the unfortunate event that they are lost or abducted. Would that violate, ethical protocols? Would that rob some of their feeling of autonomy over the privacy of their whereabouts?
    I would be the first on line to have my device inserted, maybe behind my ear. While all the current devices are great I think the Safety Net, if it uses a global positioning system is the best, so that missing citizens can be quickly located using a cell phone to which the tracking device has been connected.
    Petal D Harrigain

  5. Samantha Jagroo
    EDSN 650

    From my experience of learning about children with ASD, I have learned that they are all different. Their attitudes and personalities is different, the way they learn is different and the way they respond to their environment is also different. While learning about how to help children with ASD I was also not aware that children with ASD attempt to elope from a safe environment; a rate nearly four times higher than their unaffected siblings, as stated.The details that follow in keeping these children safe is very informational and useful to any teacher or parent. However, I find that depending on the child's specific area of struggle some of these tips can be questionable. For example using an alarm system for a child that has sensitivity to noise and loud sounds or wearing anything other than the norm can be distracting. As a teacher I believe it is important to find ways and strategies to help keep your children safe, coming up with the best ways to secure their safety.

  6. As the father of a child with autism, I constantly fear him wandering off. He has a love for motorcycles and gets excited to the point where he will run away from his mom and me to chase after the motorcycle. We had a scare a few months back, but fortunately he was found by an officer after being missing for about an hour. All of these things came to mind for us after this situation. The article was accurate, at least concerning our situation, in stating that I have not received any guidance on the matter. But since then, we have been much more cautious of how we travel with him. He knows, and can tell someone, his address and both parents phone numbers. This article is very informative.

  7. This is very useful information for parents to prepare if their child is missing, especially when they have special needs kids at home. We really can't watch our kids all the time, they may be in your sign now but disappear in next second. What I want to say is social media is very help these days, if your child is missing , use social media FB or twitter spray words around right away. and The temporary tattoos is the tips that I never think about it. This is very good one also. Ting Ting Yen

  8. EDSN 650 - Spring 2019 - M.Piriz

    As an individual which has worked a number of years with the special education community I find this article to be a clarion call of a major concern for children and families in America. Also, the technology available to wandering children is important as I have never heard of these products, so I am sure there are parents in need which have not been aware they are available. As mentioned in the article, children are some of the most vulnerable people, parents and educators must have a proactive understanding of how to keep a child safe and sound in the unique world with which they are presented.

  9. I think that this article can be very helpful for parents and educations. Parents should be educated on eloping children and the dangers that come with it. It can be hard to have your eyes on your children for every second of the day especially in your own home. The tips listed in the article can help parents prevent the worst from happening. The tips in the article can be use for preventative measures for those moments when parents get distracted. The article also gives lots of information as to what happens when you do have a missing child and some tools that can help you find your child faster. Overall, this was a very helpful article for all parents with wandering children.
    Angelique Ramsing

  10. These are very helpful resources and tips for parents and teachers with child who has special needs. As someone who had the experience working with students with autism, I understand how terrified the idea of a child getting out of a room without anyone noticing can be. And in addition to the tips mentioned above, I also think it is important for the parents and teachers of child with autism or other special needs to constantly communicate with one another to exchange information about the child in order to prevent such dangerous situation from happening.

    Yicong Teng
    EDSN 650

  11. As a teacher of children on the spectrum, I have similar fears as many parents of children with autism. Eloping and wandering is common issue for children on the autism spectrum since they tend to get distracted easily and exhibit low safety awareness. When I took my children on a field trip to the farm, we had one child per adult to ensure the safety of all the children that came.
    Throughout the year, my school offers many workshops for parents regarding issues and strategies at home, such as learning through play and toilet training, but I do not think they mention tips for if their child wanders away. This article provides good strategies for safety in the home. However, I believe that these approaches must be evaluated on a case by case basis. For example, many of my students have sensory issues related to sound that would cause them to run further if an alarm blasted when a door was opened. If a child is sensitive to sound, a parent could have a silent alarm that sends a notification to their phone to let them know that if their child is trying to leave their home.

  12. The information in this article should be shared in the news and provided by school administrators. I currently work in a program which has 2 classrooms for children with Autism. All doors have alarms, cleaning agents, soaps, and harmful chemicals are kept out of the students' reach. The school also has a protocol to enforce a soft lock down if a student runs or wanders away. Since currently there is more awareness on Autism, I see more resources listed for parents in case their child runs away. My brother is 36 years old and severely autistic. As a child my brother ran away several times and my parents had to call 911. There was not much awareness and resources for them. The whole usually would go all over the neighborhood looking for him. We were lucky that he was always found safe within the neighborhood. My brother also once drank clorox and was hospitalized. My parents learned the hard way that he would try to ingest or taste everything. As he grew my brother's school linked my parents to educational workshops, counseling for the whole family and to an ABA after school program. My brother stopped running away, had more awareness, and did not try to ingest everything. Parents should have access to different types of resources as soon as their child is diagnose with Autism. I still come across parents of my students who are not aware of the many resources available to them and are overwhelmed. There should be more articles like this on all forms of media and communication.

  13. EDSN 650
    This is a great information for parents who have children with various disabilities. As a mother of a son who has a disability I often hear other parents concerns with eloping from home or even from schools. I think it is important to see if parents or school can provide wearable ID products. I went to a seminar to learn about various Assistive technology devices to keep track of our loved ones to be in safe. One I thought I liked the most was angel device.It is like a GPS tracker, when kids go to school parents can be able to check where the student is. Very informative article. Thank you for sharing this