A few months back, Asha Baghdadi panicked when her driver, who had gone to pick her son from his school, called to say that he could not find him.
Sahil, 20, is autistic and was untraceable for more than half an hour after his classes at SPJ Sadhana School, a school for children with special needs.
“Autistic children have the tendency to wander. Thankfully, Sahil’s teacher spotted him roaming near the school otherwise we would not have found him,” said Baghdadi, a Sion resident.
The incident left Baghdadi shaken. According to Chitra Iyer, president, Forum for Autism, her organisation often gets distress calls to help trace missing autistic children. “In some unfortunate cases, we couldn’t trace the missing child,” she added.
To address the problem, the Forum has decided to introduce VigilM Buddy, a global positioning system (GPS)-based tracking device that can ease the anxiety of parents of autistic children.
The device is manufactured by the Bangalore-based VigilM Lifestyle Services that provides a subscription-based emergency assistance service.
The Buddy is a wearable, pocket-sized GPS enabled device that has a Save Our Soul (SOS) button that sends out a distress signal with its location to the company’s servers. The server then sends out SMS alerts to designated friends and family members (called buddies) along with the location.
If configured, the device also sends out automated alerts when the wearer steps in and out of designated safe zones.
“The device will be a great help to parents. Autistic children often wander off and can’t find their way back home,” said Iyer.
Baghdadi said that the device gave her the confidence to let Sahil travel alone for short distances. “This is something I never dared to do in the past,” she added.
“If the child is taught well, he/she can even press the SOS button during an emergency,” said AC Shivram, operations head, VigilM Lifestyle Services. He added that some autistic children have already begun using the device in Bangalore.