Tracking Devices Alone Can’t Keep Autistic Kids Safe

Care2 blogger Angela Braun wrote about summer safety and the Mason Alertjust about a month ago as it was starting to get warm. Summer hasn’t quite started but already there’ve been more than a few reports about autistic children wandering, sometimes tragically. WAFB reports that 7-year-old John Hogan, Jr., of North Hogan Creek, Louisiana,was found drowned in a creek on Monday morning; he had been missing since Sunday afternoon and had just moved into the neighborhood. FOX News reports that a 6-year-old autistic boy was found, wearing only a diaper, on a highway off-ramp in Phoenix. He had only been missing for a few minutes and, fortunately, someone called the police immediately.

In the past few years, people have started to use tracking devices, often asmall personal transmitter around an ankle or wrist, to monitor autistic children; the device (you can read more about them at Project Lifesaver_sends out an individualized tracking signal. Children who wandered have indeed been found thanks to these devices but there’s been two recent reports of autistic children wearing the devices, and the devices not working. 

10-year-old Kristina Vlassenko was recently found in a water-filled hole at a construction site in Arvada, Colorado; she was wearing a LifeTrak device which apparently did not work because it was submerged in water. In Aurora, Colorado, an 11-year-old autistic boy, Brandon Wells, was missing for several hours on Sunday night. 9 News says that he was wearing a Life Trak device, but the battery was dead and his parents face charges for not charging it. Indeed, they had apparently already faced similar charges:

… [Mike Chylewski, vice president of Care Trak International, the company that owns Life Trak] says the parents or care givers are required to check the device twice a day with a battery tester that is given to them. They are supposed to log when they do it.

Vlassenko’s parents did keep a log. However, according to police Wells’ parents didn’t keep up the battery on their son’s Life Trak device.

“There is some responsibility on the part of the parent. They should be testing the device every day to make sure it is working properly. That is why we supply them with a tester,” Chylewski said.

Kristina’s and Brandon’s stories are also reminders that technology doesn’t provide all the answers for keeping autistic kids and kids with disabilities safe. Here in New Jersey, all police have to have training in autism and, in some recent encounters with them (my own teenage autistic son has wandered), I’ve been pleased to note that not only did they respond immediately, but they knew about autism and were very respectful, asking us about how to address and act towards Charlie. It’s also very gratifying to know that the passerby in Phoenix contacted authorities as soon as the child was seen on the highway: Parents are doing their best to take care of their kids and support from a caring community makes a huge difference.


Related Care2 Coverage

The “Mason Alert” and Summer Safety For Kids With Autism

Photo by dougtone


Holly Lawrence
Holly Lawrence6 years ago

We must all help!

Nefertmu I.
Nefertmu I.7 years ago

I was told a story about GIA wellness when it was still called BioPro. There was a woman and her child. Her child is autistic and often screams to comfort herself. When mother went to a meeting in a house where they had the EMF protection devices, she forgot that her daughter was there because she was playing quietly. According to my doctor, 20% of the population is allergic to EMF, or electrosensitive. So this EMF radiation is an epidemic.

Nefertmu I.
Nefertmu I.7 years ago

These GPS devices use EMF and are therefore harmful to the human body. My doctor, Dr. Dan Harper, is an MD and Homeopath and this is what he says in his most recent newsletter: "Unfortunately, this recent warning did not mention the hundreds of other studies that have demonstrated additional ill health effects (not just cancer) from regular exposure to cell phones. Also discussed was how electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs) from wireless routers, power company smart meters, microwaves, baby monitors and other telecommunication devices may also play a role. Additional health issues besides cancer to consider includes diabetes, obesity, cognitive and behavioral issues, palpitations/cardiac arrhythmias, pacemaker dysfunction, sleep issues, gastrointestinal disturbances, hormonal disruption, DNA damage, sperm defects with infertility, osteopenia and numerous other chronic inflammatory diseases including increased incidence of Alzheimer's and autism."
My friend has a website where people can order devices to help with EMF radiation ( The cell guards are supposed to be used for cell phones but in my opinion (I can sense energy) it takes one of the "universal guards" to adequately protect a cell phone.

Rose A.
Rose A.7 years ago

Here is a great comparison grid to help families that have loved ones that may have the propensity to wander? It shows all the offerings represented in the GPS Safety products space and the unique benefits of each one.

Brenda Towers
Brenda Towers7 years ago

Thankss for sharing

Bruce S.
Bruce S7 years ago

Interesting article.

Tabitha J.
Tabitha J7 years ago

I wonder if they even thought about making tracking devices for kids with autism waterproof and that would help prevent drownings if they are found just in time.

Carole F.
Carole f7 years ago

"there is some responsibility on the part of the parent". checking the battery does not require a college degree, just parents who care. challenges for children on the autism spectrum vary, but the parents i have worked with, do know their children and how to protect them. how sad that not all parents behave this responsibly.

Carole Cherne
Carole Cherne7 years ago

These devices can really help keep people safe, and of course, must be properly maintained. People who don't have a family member on the autism spectrum have no idea what a challenge it can be to keep some individuals from wandering.

Velmapearl Hawkins
Velma Hawkins7 years ago

Remember law makers, these are "autistic" people who are struggling to keep up with who they are and where they live.....