The MedicAlert Foundation and the Carlos Vierra Foundation are expanding a concept started in 2014 that will help families protect their autistic children with tendencies to wander.
The foundations are promoting MedicAlert Found for Autism, which will provide families with autistic children a Medic Alert medical ID bracelet or necklace, a MedicAlert shoe tag, and wandering support services available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The program is designed to communicate the autism condition and serve as a connection to MedicAlert, which can contact family and ensure loved ones are reunited.
The program is being offered at no cost thanks to a Northwestern Mutual Insurance Endowment Fund grant.
“We’re ecstatic about our ability to offer this important program for the autism community at no cost, thanks to our generous donors,” said David Leslie, president and CEO of MedicAlert Foundation. “Too often autism wandering incidents have turned to tragedy, and we are committed to turning these tragedies into successful family reunification stories.”
MedicAlert and the Carlos Vierra Foundation partnered in 2014 for a local program that provided qualified families with an advanced GPS tracking device from MedicAlert, along with a MedicAlert membership and medical ID.
A study conducted in 2011 by the Interactive Autism Network found that 49 percent of children with autism attempt to elope from a safe environment It also found that more than one third of children with autism who wander/elope are never or rarely able to communicate their name, address, or phone number. Two in three parents of elopers reported their missing children had a “close call” with a traffic injury. Thirty-two percent of parents reported a “close call” with a possible drowning. Wandering was also ranked among the most stressful autism behaviors by 58 percent of parents of elopers. Half of families with elopers report they had never received advice or guidance about elopement from a professional.
According to the National Autism Association, in 2009, 2010, and 2011, accidental drowning accounted for 91percent total U.S. deaths reported in children with autism ages 14 and younger subsequent to wandering/elopement. Sixty-eight percent of these deaths happened in a nearby pond, lake, creek or river.
The Carlos Vieira Foundation was started by area businessman and race car driver Carlos Vieira and has placed a focus on helping families with autistic children. The Carlos Vieira Foundation will direct families to the new program via its website and family referral service.
“Free resources for our autism families are huge,” said Carlos Vieira, president of the Carlos Vieira Foundation. “The MedicAlert Found program is critically important in protecting our local autism community and we want our families to take advantage of this free resource to further eliminate the stress that accompanies wandering behavior.”
The MedicAlert Found for Autism program is now accepting enrollees. Families are encouraged to select their free medical IDs and register their loved ones with autism at www.medicalert.org/autism.