Can GPS tracking help protect autistic children?

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

As the number of children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder has soared, a nationwide effort is gaining ground to spread the word about the likelihood of their wandering off from a safe environment.

Of the over 500,000 children on the autism spectrum, about half are prone to wandering. This behavior has been linked to the deaths of dozens of children with autism since 2008. One such tragedy — involving a New York City boy found dead in a river three months after he walked away from school — has spurred the U.S. government to fund GPS tracking devices for children with autism spectrum disorders.

But while the effort to expand families’ access to tracking devices is a worthy one, it shouldn’t overshadow the lower-tech strategies for preventing and responding to wandering by children with autism: collaboration, education and sharing information. Though safety can be enhanced by technology, it shouldn’t depend on technology.

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