Caring for a child or adolescent with autism who is at risk of wandering or bolting can be a never-ending source of worry.
“Wandering behavior is extremely common among young people with autism,” said Janeé Harteau, Vitals™ CEO. “What’s even more worrisome is that a large percentage of these kids who are likely to wander lack the ability to reliably and clearly communicate their name, address or phone number. This challenge is scary for the parents and caregivers, the young people and law enforcement officers who might encounter them away from their familiar environments of home or school. That’s why it quickly became one of the first challenges we knew Vitals™ needed to address.”
In 2017, the Vitals™ App was developed in partnership with the Autism Society of Minnesota to bring communities together, empower individuals to live better lives and create greater peace of mind for families, individuals, caregivers and service providers.
Vitals™ App and Project Lifesaver join together to help bring more vulnerable people home
In 2019, Vitals™ partnered with Project Lifesaver International to create safer experiences and more positive outcomes when first responders and vulnerable people interact, including interactions during search and rescue operations.
“Project Lifesaver is the first program in the U.S. that was specifically designed to protect ‘at risk’ people,” Harteau said. “Over the last 20 years, their radio frequency technology, innovative search-and-rescue techniques and accredited first responder training have helped locate more than 3,700 special needs people during an episode of elopement. When combined with the GPS tools for tracking and emergency information sharing that Vitals™ App offers, we are proud to help communities together.”
A safer world for families and caregivers
Vitals™ App and Project Lifesaver offer full-circle elopement protection for vulnerable people, greatly enhancing the capabilities of emergency responders to locate lost people with autism or other vulnerabilities that include wandering — and return them home safely.
“Both teams — Vitals™ and Project Lifesaver — were built on the understanding of the many challenges faced by people living with intellectual, developmental or mental health challenges, as well as their caregivers and first responder agencies,” Harteau said. “Working together, we are aimed at better protecting vulnerable people, improving their quality of life, and giving just a little more peace of mind to all who are involved.”
Helpful tips to care for a wanderer
Families and caregivers who seek to protect a person at risk of wandering — from autism to Alzheimer’s and dementia — can use these practical steps from Autism Speaks to help increase care and safety — and reduce worry — in day-to-day life.
- Secure your home. If all the options for security are overwhelming, a professional locksmith, security company or home improvement pro can be a valuable resource to help you manage safety and prevention in your home
- Alert local first responders. When emergency personnel know a few facts about the person in your care, they are better able to help. As a Vitals™ App subscriber, you can provide information about invisible conditions, de-escalation tips, emergency contacts, medications and much more. In a moment of crisis, these unique details are automatically provided to the first responders helping your loved one.
- Meet your neighbors. Knowing the people in your neighborhood can help reduce wandering risks, especially if you spend a moment to introduce the person in your care or offer a photograph.
- Use a medical ID and/or tracking device. Technology can increase both safety and peace of mind. The Vitals™ App digital medical ID and Beacon share your loved one’s information with emergency responders, in real time.
- Focus on water safety. Many YMCAs offer swimming lessons for people with special needs. If you have a pool, remove toys from the water and surrounding area when the pool is not being used, and always secure the gate.