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Autism and wandering: Matthew's story

Although he was diagnosed with autism at a very young age, 20-year old Matthew didn’t have a wandering incident until he became a teenager. Matthew first wandering from his high school campus and a few months later, leaving the house in the middle of the night, Matthew’s mother Bonnie decided it was time to enroll him in MedicAlert.

These wandering incidents have become all-too-familiar for Bonnie as he has wandered  multiple times during the past three years. But it wasn't until July 30, 2016 that the danger became really real.  Bonnie said, “We have relied on MedicAlert many times to help bring Matthew home safely after he’s wandered, but when he left during the night last summer, he was gone for a much longer period of time. Matthew ended up further away from home than ever before. If not for MedicAlert, I don’t know what would have happened to my son.”

According to Bonnie, Matthew typically wanders anytime they are on a break from school and not in structured routine. One night over the summer, Bonnie awoke around 4am, and Matthew was not in his bed. Upon realizing Matthew had wandered once again, her first call was to local law enforcement and then MedicAlert. When the MedicAlert Emergency response specialist answered, Bonnie was understandably alarmed. MedicAlert confirmed what Matthew was last wearing, when he was last seen to ensure these exact details and the relayed the information to the Los Angeles County law enforcement agency.

Hours later, a California Highway Patrol officer called MedicAlert. He was sitting with Matthew who had been located wandering northbound on Interstate 110, near the Pacific Coast Highway intersection. The officer immediately noticed Matthew’s bracelet which read Autism-Nonverbal. MedicAlert’s Emergency Response Specialist provided the officer with Matthew’s critical health information, confirmed their location and then brought Bonnie, Matthew’s mother, onto the line for a three-way call. The officer communicated to Bonnie that he was concerned for Matthew’s health as he seemed dehydrated. The officer had requested for paramedic assistance on-scene, and told Bonnie that Matthew was being transferred to a local hospital facility. Bonnie was extremely grateful for the attention given to Matthew and was able to quickly reunite with him at the hospital.

“The best decision I ever made to help give me peace of mind when Matthew wanders was getting his MedicAlert bracelet. Everyone is always so helpful, and I know law enforcement and MedicAlert will help bring him back to us unharmed.”