Parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often use physical devices like helmets, gates, and locks as ways to keep their kids protected. But an increasing number of parents are also turning to smart tech to help.
In fact, today’s ASD parents have plenty of options for keeping their children safe. Here are five smart tech ideas to try if you have a kid on the spectrum.
1. Smart Sensors
Many children with ASD wander, bolt, or run away from safe spaces (known as “eloping”). Eloping puts children at a higher risk of bodily injury. And nearly half of children with ASD engage in eloping, so it’s a big concern for parents.
But today, parents are using smart home sensors for doors and windows to alert them to any small escape artists. When a sensor triggers, it sends an alert to your connected mobile device. An app can notify caregivers anywhere—at work, at the store, or while mowing the lawn.
You can also connect sensors to other smart devices to customize your home’s safety. For example, if your child has trouble with light switches, connect your smart sensor to a smart bulb. It will turn the light on when the door opens or when someone enters the room. This design can make dark hallways much safer and less scary. Virtual assistants like Amazon Alexa also work with door sensors. You can create an Alexa Routine with your front door sensor to have Alexa announce, “The front door is open.”
Smart sensors range from $15 to $60 depending on the features. But the total cost will depend on how many sensors you need to cover all doors and windows.
2. GPS Tracker
While smart sensors can alert you if your child starts to wander away, what happens if he/she is successful? GPS trackers are on almost every digital device today, from our smartphones to our cars. But some trackers are built with autistic children in mind. The AngelSense tracker has many features that will help locate your child in almost any situation. If your child wanders into an unfamiliar outdoor location, the AngelSense will alert you through a map on your smartphone. You can also activate the tracker’s alarm to locate your child within a crowd or when he or she is hiding nearby.
The tracker also works at school or daycare. If your little one misses the bus or is late leaving school, you will receive a late departure warning. The tracker is also a one-way and two-way radio, allowing you to talk to or with your child for directions or as a comforting presence. The AngelSense attaches to your child’s clothing, so it works well for children who are sensitive to wearables.
Unfortunately, the price for the AngelSense runs around $230, and it requires a monthly ($39.99) or annual ($400) plan. So, it’s not for every family budget, but it can make a big difference for children prone to eloping.
3. Smart Cameras
Smart video cameras are an effective way to track your child’s whereabouts inside and outside the home. Most smart cameras are self-contained and easy to install. They connect to the internet and store data to the cloud, giving you access to a video from anywhere at any time. And most models let you live stream from your smartphone, so you can remotely monitor your child from work or the next room.
Some cameras also offer night vision, which is helpful if your child suffers from seizures, sleepwalking, or nightmares. And children with autism are three times more likely to experience life-threatening injuries like drowning compared to neurotypical children, so smart cameras are a must-have for families with indoor or outdoor pools.
Smart cameras also help with needs other than safety. For example, you can record your child’s behavior for teachers, therapists, and medical professionals, and they can use the footage to inform their diagnosis. Video footage can also be a great tool for monitoring in-home therapy sessions or tracking behavior problems. Standalone security cameras cost around $100 to $250 each.
4. Leak Detectors
Often, children with ASD leave water faucets running. But the implications are more than a flooded home and sky-high water bill. Children can slip, scald themselves, or drown from bathtubs filled to the brim. Smart leak detectors alert you when water pools around them. Water detectors are internet-ready, so you get real-time alerts pushed to your mobile device. Use them around bathtubs, showers, kitchen floors, and basements. Detectors will run you anywhere from $30 to $70. They’re an inexpensive investment that could save you everything.
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5. Smart Locks and Doorbells
The front door is a common challenge for parents of ASD children. If you have many therapists or caregivers coming into your home, a smart lock can simplify your life. Instead of making extra keys, give each person a PIN code that will unlock your front door. Or if you’re away from home, you can unlock or lock your door with your smartphone, which is great for forgotten keys or emergencies.
Smart doorbells are another handy device for safety and convenience. Smart doorbells have video cameras that detect when someone’s at your front door. Certain doorbell models can even learn and recognize faces and announce the person’s arrival. Some children with ASD will let strangers into your home thinking they’re being helpful, and deadbolts may not prevent this if they know how to unlock them. Smart doorbells can announce the name of the person, so your child will know if it’s okay to open the door.
Smart locks and doorbells are pricey. Expect to pay around $200 to $350 for a lock and $150 to $230 for each doorbell.
Although these five smart devices alone can help protect children with ASD, their real power comes when they’re combined. Efficient smart homes have central hubs that connect all devices. Use them to program your smart doorbell to turn on your lights when it identifies your child at the front door. Or if your child has a favorite song that calms them, tell your virtual assistant to play it when he/she attempts to open a door or window.
It could distract him/her long enough to keep him/her from wandering. Connectivity lets you get creative and customize your home’s security to your individual needs—a feature every parent of a child with ASD can use.
This article was featured in Issue 95 – Managing Autism Together