Parents of children with autism experience a level of fear and anxiety in moments that are ordinary for other children. For children with special needs, there is always risk. Children with autism are prone to dangers like wandering, and many of these children are also nonverbal. For many families, there is not a single moment of relief.
The designers of AngelSense – parents of special needs children themselves – designed the AngelSense GPS tracker with these special children in mind. AngelSense addresses the concerns of parents with special needs, and with unique technology, the safety of children with challenges like autism is prioritized.
Consider the story of this family, that despite every alarm bell, locked door, and strong supervision, couldn’t always prevent their child with autism from wandering from home or other locations. Emergency services were called if their child went missing, and desperate alerts to the neighbors and teachers were made. Although their child was found safe each time, there was always worry that their child couldn’t be located in time to prevent tragedy. It wasn’t a matter of if, but when, the frantic search for their child would begin again. With wandering tragedies hitting the news regularly, the parents’ fear was palpable.
Then this family discovered AngelSense GPS for autism, and everything changed. It was like another set of eyes and ears that altered the entire scope of the day – from the moment their child left for school to the minute he went to bed at night. It made moments like the day he got off the school bus but never made it to the classroom so much easier to handle. In the shuffle of arriving students, the administrators lost track of this child for no more than seconds, but that’s all it takes. There was no way of knowing if the child had gone inside the building or had wandered off school grounds.
The AngelSense GPS tracker attaches discreetly to the child and is non-removable without the parent’s key. It communicates with an app on the parents’ cell phone. When their child wandered from the premises, AngelSense sent an alert to immediately inform the parents, who activated Runner Mode. In Runner Mode, live updates are given every 10 seconds to guide you directly to your child’s location as they are moving in real time. Luckily, this child was found in minutes rather than hours, completely safe and sound.
Had the child been in the building, the parents would have used a special alarm to help guide them to the child’s location. The parents can use the app’s 2-way voice feature to speak to and calm their child when needed, and to support him from afar. The call is picked up automatically on the GPS device which is secured to the child’s clothing. AngelSense also alerts caretakers to any unexpected stops or late departures, so you would know if your child’s school bus was late.
No other device offers the same freedom to both individuals and families. The AngelSense GPS tracker gave this child freedom to move in the hallways independently, inspiring confidence and improving life satisfaction. They no longer needed a 1:1 aid at school, and their child could learn to navigate familiar places on their own, building his confidence and independence. The family was also able to go on vacation for the first time, enjoying a new experience together without having to worry about elopement in an unfamiliar place. If their child was to wander, they had the tools in their hands to find him quickly and prevent harm.
When a child with autism wanders, it is a life-threatening event. AngelSense saves lives every day. The peace of mind that this family was given is invaluable. The AngelSense GPS tracker does more than offer reassurance to families of children with special needs and freedom to individuals; it has been proven to avoid harmful outcomes and save lives. There is no greater gift than peace of mind and the knowledge that your child is safe, where ever they are. Children with special needs are not always capable of announcing when they need help, but with the innovative technology that is being made available to families from AngelSense, help is always right around the corner.
As a young person, I traveled, spending a lot of time in India and backpacking around Alaska. I figured I’d live in a cabin in the Rockies and spend much of my time hiking, hanging out in nature, and meditating. I even met my husband, Bruce, at a meditation center.
But the truth is, I barely ever have a quiet moment—and I never go hiking. At 46, my life isn’t what I thought it would be. It’s better.
Three years after our daughter Grace was born, I gave birth to our son, Jay. When Jay was about 2-and-a-half years old, Bruce and I started to suspect that something wasn’t right. We thought he should be talking more. He interacted differently with toys—constantly holding them but rarely playing with them.
When Grace was in kindergarten, we talked to a speech therapist at her school about Jay. After having him evaluated, we learned he was, indeed, delayed. When he was 3, we enrolled him in special education.
but that didn’t last long. He had a major regression and lost all speech. He began running around the house screaming and engaging in other behaviors he’d never displayed before.
When Jay was diagnosed with autism, we were devastated and heartbroken. I wanted to hole up in a dark room and cry, but Bruce and I knew we had to pull it together and be advocates for our son. We consulted with a mother of an autistic child who told us step-by-step what to do to get help. We were able to get a significant amount of services for our son because we wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.
We’ve worked hard to give Jay the best possible life, to keep him safe. That’s why we were mortified in 2011 when Jay got lost at his school. Another mother found him alone on the grounds, just inside the gate. She knew Jay and how to approach him. She was able to take him by the hand and escort him to the office. Another time he got lost at camp.
These frightening situations prompted us to found If I Need Help, a nonprofit organization aimed at keeping children and adults—especially those with special needs—safe in potentially dangerous situations.
When we came up with the idea for If I Need Help, Bruce and I were brainstorming; looking for ways to keep people like our son safe in emergency situations. It was then—when we were open and seeking—that this divine idea was able to land.
We created a variety of products—everything from patches to pins, clips to shoe tags— each with a special QR code. When the person is found, the code can be scanned by a smartphone or tablet, or their number can be entered on our website to access pertinent information in an emergency. These products can, quite literally, save lives.
A woman named Denise Carter shared a heartwrenching story on her Facebook page, “And Then They Grow Up.” Denise was driving to McDonald’s with her adult son, Matthew, who has Down syndrome, autism, and is nonverbal. A woman talking on a cell phone ran a red light and hit Denise’s car at 40 mph. Although Denise was incapacitated, she was alert enough to know that her son, while unhurt, wouldn’t be able to communicate anything about himself, including his name.
Denise discovered our company after the accident and told her Facebook followers about our products. Her story, posted on our ifineedhelp.org website, went viral. In just a few days, we had more than a thousand orders and membership on our website quadrupled. I couldn’t think about the magnitude of what was happening. I focused instead on being thankful— and on making our new customers feel special.
I’ve had a lot of sadness about my son’s disability, but my faith has remained steadfast. Through our nonprofit, I believe we’re serving a higher purpose—one I could never have imagined for myself.
At 13, our Jay is a big boy. He just started junior high. He finds joy in blowing bubbles. He loves to run and jump. He enjoys watching and caring for people. He likes to feed me.
But Jay also has a lot of anxiety. We drive around the canyons around our home in Santa Clarita, California, because it’s one of his favorite pastimes. When he’s escalating, I start to chant. While he’s very low verbal, Jay comes into the chant. Before long, he’s peaceful again.
Sometimes when he’s agitated, I’ll have him sit on the couch, put his hands in his lap, close his eyes, and meditate. While he doesn’t stay there long, it changes his entire demeanor. These kinds of experiences tell me he’s a very spiritual young man.
I’ve always felt that at the end of my life, I’m going to say it was Jay who brought me to my purpose in life.
Erin Wilson is cofounder of the nonprofit ifineedhelp.org with her husband Bruce. Their son Jay has severe autism and had gotten lost in the past. Creating If I Need Help has been a labor of love to protect him and others who have special needs.