Safe and Secure: Parenting and Autism

For parents raising a child with a cognitive delay or autism, keeping a child safe brings on a completely different set of concerns. With all children, you’re worried about keeping them safe on the playground, teaching them how to look both ways when crossing the street, and not talk to strangers. But for a parent raising a child with a cognitive delay, autism, or Asperger’s, a bigger worry is – what happens if your child is in an emergency situation?

Could your child communicate if they are in harm’s way? Will they be responsive to a police officer? Will they run away if a first responder approaches them? Will they be able to communicate who they are and where they live?

There are no clear answers to these questions, because raising a child with autism brings new challenges on a daily basis.

According to the Autism Speaks, 1 in 59 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), an estimated one-third of the individuals diagnosed with autism are nonverbal, and nearly half of those with autism wander or bolt from safety.

Rebecca Goodard of the “Real Mom of OC” blog believes a MedicAlert ID and membership are great safety tools for her two sons, Jackson, age 12 and Franklin, age 10. Both Jackson and Franklin are living with autism. “For my son Jackson, there are some questions that he may not answer if he’s nervous. And Franklin is non-verbal and has seizures. As they get older, and entering their teenage years, getting bigger – security or police personnel may take a different approach with them. A medical identification tag such as a MedicAlert shoe tag keeps my boys safe. If they’re lost or in an emergency, the MedicAlert shoe tag will prompt a first responder or Good Samaritan to contact MedicAlert’s 24/7 emergency hotline for their health records and our safe return action plan.”

We’ve got you covered.

What is MedicAlert?

Well, it’s not just a medical ID. MedicAlert is peace of mind, knowing that if your loved one wanders or has a medical emergency, MedicAlert Foundation has their back – and yours. With a MedicAlert ID and protection plan, MedicAlert offers a complete medical alert system for those living with autism. With MedicAlert, your loved one’s medical history and emergency contact info is stored, safe and secure, in their MedicAlert profile. So, if they are lost or have a medical emergency, MedicAlert’s live emergency response team will relay the necessary information to keep your loved one safe, and help return them to you as quickly as possible.

Parenting and autism can be challenging - MedicAlert can help.

One of the biggest safety concerns for a parent or caregiver of someone with autism is wandering – sometimes called elopement, or bolting. Statistics from the Child Mind Institute are pretty staggering: 50 percent of children between the ages of 4 and 10 with an ASD have wandered at some point — four times more than their unaffected siblings. Two out of three reported their wandering child had a “close call” with a traffic injury, while almost a third said their child had a “close call” with drowning.

Why do kids with autism wander?

Experts aren’t exactly sure why people with autism wander. In some cases, it’s simply because they enjoy running and exploring. It may be to go to a familiar place or follow something they’re fascinated by, like trains or water.

Here’s more from the Child Mind Institute: “Kids with autism may wander because they have a weaker sense of danger than other kids. Or they may get fixated on exploring something interesting. Others may be trying to leave situations that make them anxious. They might also want to escape overwhelming sensory experiences, like loud noises or bright lights.”

How does MedicAlert help?

First responders are trained to look for a MedicAlert ID. Should your loved one wander from safety or have a medical emergency, accessing the MedicAlert ID number on their bracelet, necklace or shoe tag will connect first responders to MedicAlert’s 24/7, live emergency response team. We’ll relay your loved one’s vital medical history and reach out to connect first responders with your child’s emergency contacts.

Through MedicAlert’s Safe & Found services, MedicAlert’s live emergency team works diligently with first responders and local authorities in the case of a lost or wandering child. We transmit photos and a missing person’s report to police, hospitals and first responders, and proactively reach out to the community outlets to advise them to be on alert. We have the knowledge, experience, and most importantly, a live team available 24/7 to help ensure a safe return home for your child.

Parents will always worry. Parenting an autistic child can add more worry. A MedicAlert ID and protection plan provides comfort so you can sleep a little bit easier, knowing that MedicAlert will be there for you and your family in your time of need.

What is a MedicAlert Protection Plan?

Nobody anticipates an emergency but if it happens, we’ll communicate your loved one’s critical information to first responders, so they’ll receive the care they need, at the moment they need it.

Because in an emergency, every second counts.

Wearing a medical ID for autism is vital protection for your child. But MedicAlert’s protection plans provide life-saving benefits beyond just the ID. With an Advantage protection plan, MedicAlert will:

  • Keep a record of your child’s medical history, physicians and emergency contacts.
  • If your child is reported wandering, MedicAlert conducts outreach to local hospitals and ambulance services. We distribute a missing persons flyer and coordinate with emergency personnel.
  • If your child is found wandering, we connect you with the person who found your child to ensure a safe return home.
  • If your child is in an accident or medical emergency, we relay your child’s vital health information to first responders so they get fast, accurate care.
  • We follow up until the accident or wandering incident is resolved. In fact, last year MedicAlert helped over 500 families reunite with lost loved ones.

Parenting is not easy. Parenting and autism make for an even greater challenge, especially when it comes to wandering. MedicAlert can help.

Donate to the MedicAlert Foundation. Your tax-deductible donation supports our first responder training and 24/7 emergency services. Help us protect and save more lives.