Should Children with Autism Wear GPS Tracking Devices?

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It’s been more than a month since non-verbal, autistic teen Avonte Oquendo walked out of his public school. He’s still missing and his family is still hoping.

Avonte’s disappearance has prompted immediate action. Kpana Kpoto, a special needs advocate and mother to a six-year old son with autism, started an online petition to bring Project Lifesave to New York.

“My son has bolted in the street before,” Kpoto said. After hearing the news of Avonte, she immediately went on line in search of a tracking device appropriate for her son.

Earlier this week, Kpoto was invited to attend press conference where Senator Charles E. Schumer asked the Department of Justice to fund tracking devices for kids with autism. Senator Schumer called for a federal program to fund voluntary tracking devices for children with autism and similar disorders who have a history of wandering. The program would provide funds to the police who could provide devices to parents, schools and legal guardians.

“The use of these devices reduces the amount of time to locate a child by 95%. That’s amazing,” Schumer said.

Senator Schumer Kpana Kpoto

Senator Schumer with Kpana Kpoto
courtesy of: Kpana Kpoto

Some of the comments and criticism I’ve read around the internet about kids wearing tracking devices have been upsetting. And most likely they’re expressed by individuals who have no idea what it’s like raising a special needs kid. This isn’t about big brother or treating our kids like dogs or political power.

This is about keeping a vulnerable population safe.

Avonte isn’t the only young person with autism who has gone missing, “nearly half of children with autism engage in wandering behavior.” Avonte Oquendo ran by a security guard and bolted out of his school.

If New York City public schools aren’t equipped to keep the growing number of kids with autism safe, then we must take alternative measures.

My son, Norrin, has autism and is quite verbal. Whenever we go out to amusement parks or places we know there will be large crowds, Norrin wears an identification necklace. I never let go of his hand for a second. Through ABA, Norrin has memorized his first and last name, his address and our phone numbers. And while he relays this information back to us when asked, Norrin may not be able to tell authorities if he is lost or scared. Norrin may not tell people his name or phone number.

Would I put a GPS tracking device on my son? Absolutely! What good is an ID necklace, if he’s hiding someplace or hurt? I want Norrin to have something that will really help in case he cannot help himself.

New York is a big city. Children get lost and wander off every day. A tracking device can help ensure they are returned to their loved ones quickly and safely.

What are your thoughts? Should children with autism wear GPS Tracking Devices?

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image credit: iStock.com 

 

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