Many of our many products and features here at If I Need Help have been created from hearing another parents’ needs and suggestions. Bruce, my husband and non profit co-founder, was told by one of our members that Neighbor Alerts are needed to inform the neighbors about the families special needs and how to contact them incase their child wandered out. We agreed and added Neighbor alert to our list of free services that come with an If I Need Help membership. It is found in your My Account settings (First do the Free Sign Up if you are not already a member) then create and print the Neighbor alert. Next determine who are the eyes in your neighborhood that could help your loved one? joggers? dog walkers? mail carriers? delivery persons? bus drivers? store managers? And which of these people are trustworthy? That you feel safe having your phone number and knowing that your Loved One has Special Needs.
I decided to present our neighbor alert to the young family that just moved in next door. I learned two very important things. First my new neighbor is a caring and kind person. I walked over with my 16 year old son Jay who has Autism and explained that if he is ever alone or in danger please call me. The man listened, read over the alert then reach his hand out to meet Jay and shake his hand while saying “It is great to meet you”. Next he folded the paper to put in his pocket because I caught him while doing yard work. So I thought about this. Where is this paper going to end up? Joggers/dog walkers will not be carrying it with them daily but everyone always has a cell phone with them. So we are adding default text to please add my contact info to your cell phone contacts. This way they will not even have to dial the number if an emergency happens, they can just click on the number.
A while back the Emergency Q&A was created when we heard that during a crisis some parents are too upset and scared to answer the critical missing/medical emergency questions that a police officer would ask. During a calm moment these can be answered, printed out and kept in purse/car/house ready for an emergency. It can also be emailed during an emergency to first responders.
You are welcome to visit your local police station and bring the neighbor alert and Emergency Q&A so they know about your Loved One with Special Needs and can tell their officers what to expect. A lost person is often taken to the police when found. Then the police need to find out who that person is. This past weekend a police dept. near us had posted a picture of a young man with Autism. He was found wandering in traffic! After many people commented it was learned that he lives in a nearby group home. Police having your info on record before hand, can decrease confusion and time wasted trying to determining who this is and how to help them.
We spent last year training 1400 Southern California Highway Patrol officers about Autism. How to identify people with Autism and best practices to keep encounters calm. We felt most of them have limited encounters with people who have special needs but wanted to know and understand more. Whenever I see an officer I have Jay shake hands and say Hi. It is important for them to see our children and important for our children to feel like they can approach an Officer and ask for help.
I have been a massage therapist the past 20 years with no experience in product development or printing. So this adventure has been quite a process of learning for this 40 something year old. We began with direct to garment printing of the codes to shirts and learned those could fade. Then we learned of a way to make patches. This is the main item we use for Jay. He has a patch sewn to all his shirts. Then people would say they like shoe tags or what about an iD card or temporary tattoo or bracelet? So we have added these and many more ways to wear or carry personal info. All have a personal QR Code which links to the live profile which has a picture, contacts and additional info. It can be updated in real time. For example when Jay goes on a field trip with school I will add his Aide’s number and then delete it when he safely returns home.
We recommend people only put information you would want a finder to know about your loved one in the profile. The Emergency Question and Answer section will not be seen when scanned. It is the recommended place for confidential information.
Please visit IfiNeedHelp.org and use these free features inspired by parents’ needs.
You don’t realize how much words matter until someone says something that matters to you. One of my family members made a joke about Special Olympics. I realize this is a cultural thing people joke about, not meaning to ridicule but it is hurtful to me. Words matter! My son has Autism, is a wandering risk, can be a danger to himself, and has been a Special Olympics athlete for 8 years now. I find the coaches to be compassionate, committed and caring. The athletes all participate to the best of their abilities with pride and joy. A Special Olympics team is a very different environment than other sports games because everyone is supportive and roots for each other. There is no fierce competition. It actually took me a while to adapt to the mindset of a team without a competitive push. These athletes deserve the same as all other athletes. They should not be made fun of, but praised for all they are achieving. I know and understand the obstacles they need to overcome are much greater, than the challenges of most other athletes.
I am his voice. When I hear words like stupid or retarded in peoples’ regular conversations it hurts. I know they are culturally accepted words, and that they are not directly insulting my son, but it hurts anyway. Our culture needs to change and make our language more respectful to people of all abilities. I truly believe that the greatness of a society can be judged on how it treats and cares for our most vulnerable citizens. They are people with feelings and dreams just like you and I. As a culture our everyday language should not ridicule and demean but support all athletes for each of their achievements. Our words really matter because they define our reality and opinions.