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A bill that would provide caregivers with locator devices to help keep individuals with special needs safe passed the Senate last December, with U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer throwing his support behind what could be a lifesaving tracking technology for those prone to wandering from supervision.
The bill, called “Kevin and Avonte’s Law,” a name that memorializes two children with autism who died after wandering from safe locations, would provide grant funding for caregivers to purchase tracking devices, which include GPS tracking, phone communication and alert systems. The bill would also establish a Missing Americans Alert Program to work in conjunction with schools, caregivers and local law enforcement to promote wandering prevention education. The bill is now under consideration by the House of Representatives.
In December, two children with autism were found safe after wandering in New York City. These children could have been saved or found sooner had they been wearing tracking devices, said Schumer. A 2012 study found that almost half of children with autism have wandered from caregivers at some point, according to a state news release.
The New Jersey-based company AngelSense developed one such device in 2014 that is designed for sensory sensitivity and can be attached to a child’s clothes or worn like a belt. Parents, and potentially schools and first responders, can then use the device through a mobile phone app to track the child’s whereabouts (the device can also be used for adults with dementia or other needs.)
If a child leaves a designated area, such as his or her school building, the app will alert a parent’s phone, and a “runner mode” will track a child’s route with GPS updates every 10 seconds.
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Guardians can tell if a child is in a vehicle, like a car or bus, and, in a more recent update, the GPS technology can follow a child into a building, like a shopping mall. If a child is in a crowd or hiding, guardians can activate a device alarm to help locate him/her.
The app also allows parents to listen in on a child’s situation, and speak to the child through the device without any action on the child’s end. Parents can alert emergency personnel if a child is on the run, and allow school officials to check a special dashboard to make sure a child is safe during school hours.
The device and included accessories costs $100 in an offer on the website and works on a subscription service that costs $39.99 a month on an annual contract. There are several other payment options, including a month-to-month, non-contract plan that costs $52.99 a month.
Those who have used the device say it’s worth the cost to ensure their child’s safety, and find the interface to be comprehensive yet easy to use. Other similar devices included KidConnect, which is cheaper overall and looks more like an actual mobile phone with buttons — a concept that made older children more excited to tote it around.
AngelSense was developed by Chairman Nery Ben-Azar and CEO Doron Somer, a father of a child with autism. The customer service team comprises other parents of children with special needs.
“When parents tell us how much peace of mind they’re gained, I know we’ve succeeded in creating a solution that’s truly tailor-made for our special children,” said Somer on the AngelSense website.
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