For families of children with autism, down syndrome, or any special need that affects cognitive functioning, safety is at the top of their priority list. Many worry their loved one will wander off, run away, or find themselves in a life-threatening situation in which they need assistance but can't be found.
For years, families of people with special needs have used low-tech options, such as door chimes or bells to alert them of a door being opened. This simple solution allows parents to move about their home without constantly having an eye on their child. However, this safeguard has its limitations.
A number of products and advancements in technology have brought more sophisticated options to these worried families. For people who know they can't supervise those with special needs every second of the day, some products have let them breathe a little easier.
One company, EmFinders, has created EmSeeQ, a product designed for those people with special needs who may wander or get lost easily. EmSeeQ, which looks a watch, works with 9-1-1 emergency systems. It uses U-TDOA Phase II location technology, commonly used in 9-1-1 location systems. Once the device is activated remotely, it emits a signal emergency services can use to determine the current location of the individual wearing the device. The company cites an average less than 30 minute recovery time for clients.
Caretrak Systems Inc. has been in operation for 24 years and claims a 100 percent rescue rate with its product. There is a product for the home, in which an alarm goes off when the person wearing the device leaves a pre-determined area. The other option is a system for locating a person once they are lost. The device uses telemetry, or radio waves, to locate a missing person. Those looking for the missing person hold a receiver with an antenna and the person with special needs wears a transmitter. The person searching moves about until the signal becomes stronger, indicating a close proximity to the missing person. It can track a signal up to one mile.
In addition to the precautions families are taking, law enforcement agencies are taking a more active role in preventing and responding to emergencies involving people with special needs.
Some emergency service departments are taking the initiative to research various disabilities on their own but many are reaching out to organizations, like Autism Speaks, to gather training information for their staff members on how best to provide services for these individuals. Tips include how to interact with a person with special needs, types of care they may need, and preventative measures to keep these members of their communities out of harm's way.
Both families of people with special needs and members of their community are taking a more active role in keeping this population safe. Through education and a variety of products, those expected to protect and care for those with special needs are ensuring they do so.