The National Autism Association (NAA) is a parent-run advocacy organization whose mission is to respond to the most urgent needs of the autism community.
Because these urgent needs are often related to safety, NAA has placed great focus on providing information and resources to caregivers and care providers of individuals most at risk for bodily injury and death in association with wandering incidents.
NAA has been approached multiple times about our position on personal locator devices, and other safety items designed to either prevent, or respond to, wandering emergencies. NAA does not promote any one safety product over another for the purpose of monetary gain. Our role is to provide the most relevant information and tools to those in need based on the most reliable and relevant information we have.
REGARDING PERSONAL LOCATOR DEVICE VENDORS:
Although our organization prefers programs that are implemented by professionally trained emergency response personnel such as Project LifeSaver and LoJack SafetyNet, and we have provided financial assistance to parents and agencies so they may receive these services, these programs are not yet available throughout the U.S., and families are in need of other options. It is for this reason we also provide information on certain GPS-based products that offer geofencing capabilities, and at times have provided financial assistance to parents in critical need of this service.
Because NAA has no control over the quality, reliability, performance, training or technical support provided through manufacturers or distributors, personal locator information provided through our online and printed materials should never be interpreted as medical advice or an organizational endorsement.
REGARDING SALES COMMISSION:
It is NAA’s policy to decline all offers of monies and commissions associated with the sale of products from safety-device manufacturers. NAA has no partnerships with any one vendor.
REGARDING BEST PRACTICES:
NAA feels strongly that a multi-layered approach to prevent, and respond to, wandering emergencies is necessary to achieve optimal safety for your child. This includes making every attempt to educate your child on self-help skills including swimming, making every attempt to educate them about safety and potential dangers by using social stories, language, prompts, or any communication mechanism best suited for their individual needs. It’s important that caregivers work to understand what is causing, or contributing to, the wandering or bolting behaviors so that any triggers may be addressed or eliminated. The most important thing is that the at-risk child or adult is learning to keep themselves safe, while proper safeguards and adult supervision are also in place to help ensure their safety.
No matter what prevention strategies are put into place, parents should never allow themselves to feel a false sense of security Although certain vendors may sell units based on words like “relaxation” and “peace of mind,” please know that these benefits are secondary to the overall goal of safety.
REGARDING TYPES OF LOCATOR DEVICES:
There is a wide range of personal locating devices available. However, there is not one solution that is appropriate for everyone. Some children will wear a wristband, some will not. Some need a waterproof device, some do not. Some areas do not have reliable cellular service, which is vital for many of these units. For some children, who are at risk only in certain situations, it may be okay for them to be frequently unprotected while their unit is sitting on a charger, others are at risk around the clock. There are simply too many variables in products, and a wide scope of individual needs for our children for us to make specific recommendations.
Families should thoroughly research the features of personal locating devices before deciding on which is best for their child. We suggest the following considerations:
- Battery Life – does the unit have to be charged? If so, how often? Is your loved one unprotected during the charging process?
- Water Resistance – can the unit be worn when bathing, showering, swimming?
- Efficacy in water – will the unit transmit a signal under water?
- Is the unit removable by the wearer?
- Is geofencing/perimeter notification available?
- Cellular service in your area – will the unit work in the area of your home, school, etc?
- Does the system involve trained emergency response personnel?
- Is the manufacturer accessible in case you have critical questions or challenges? Are they interested in your child’s specific needs? Do they support a multi-layered approach to safety?
- What are the costs involved, are there monthly fees?
Lastly, if parents choose to use a personal locating device, they should be sure to field test the equipment in different locations, terrain and various types of weather as if it were a real-life situation.