I’ve shared a statistic from the National Autism Association many times now… 49% of children with autism engage in elopement behaviour.   I have one of those children and the wandering aspect is truly the scariest part of his autism for me.  For those that don’t know, my son is what they call ‘a runner’.  He mainly ‘runs’ when he is in situations that cause him frustration, anxiety, fear or if he is experiencing sensory overload.  Transitioning and change are a difficult thing for him and it is when these things occur that I am most aware of his behaviours.  Though this pretty much covers the risk factors for my son, other children may wander for goal-related reasons.  He or she may may be trying to get somewhere specific (i.e. home or a park) or maybe there is a particular object that has caught their attention and they wish to explore (i.e. water).  Some individuals wander at night, become confused, disoriented and then lost.

Whatever the reasons, when our children wander, the potential risks are enormous.  Some of these risks include, but are not limited to, drowning, being struck by a vehicle, falling from a height, dehydration, hypothermia, abduction, victimization and assault.  Parents and caregivers need to educate themselves about elopement behaviours and what they can do to protect their loved ones.

There are many different products and services that are available today to help us in our efforts to keep our children safe.  Nothing replaces knowing where your child is at ALL times, but the reality is, that’s not always practical.  Our children are not always in our care.  They go to school, visit friends and relatives, participate in other programs and, let’s face it, once and a while we, as parents, need to sleep!!

Over the next little while I will be sharing with you some of the options that I have come across… as part of a series of ‘safety-related’ posts.  The first product that I would like to share with you comes from Bruce and Erin Wilson, the Founders of QR Code iD.  I think it is important to note here that Bruce and Erin are also, like so many of us, autism parents… so they ‘get it’!

By now, I’m sure most of you are familiar with QR Codes… or you’ve at least seen them.  They work very much like the barcodes that you see in the grocery store, but can contain a great deal more information because of the way they are designed.  These codes are being utilized by both individuals and businesses alike, but by far, the most impressive use I have seen is using them to help those that can’t necessarily help themselves… as in the case of QR Code iD.

Erin agreed to do an interview with Mom-ology so that I could share with you about their product and services.  So read on and learn what QR Code iD is doing… offering parents a little more peace of mind when it comes to our loved ones that wander.

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Q. What is QR Code iD?

A. QR Code iD provides ID, information and communication for those who are unable to during a critical moment.  We print individual codes on shirts, pins and other items.  This code can be scanned or the unique number associated with each code can be manually entered into our website to view an individual’s profile.  The profile has contact, emergency and behavioral information.  This information can be changed in real time to reflect what needs to be known at a particular moment in time.  For example  “We are in the parking garage looking for him and the reception is terrible.  Please take him to security level 1 and we will be right up.”  Or  “We lost Dad at 2.  He needs his insulin by 5.”  Or  “My EPI pen is in the front pocket of my purse.

Q. Why did you start the company?

A. Our son Jay has moderate to severe Autism with very limited language.   He has been lost a couple times so his safety has been a concern for us. We know many other parents and caregivers who are in a similar situation. We felt that many people could be helped with a service like this.

Q. The idea is fantastic!  How did you come up with it?

A. It’s funny.  My husband Bruce and I were on a date lunch back in April 2012, and he was talking about designing a shirt to meet sensory needs with soothing hems and chew tubes.  And I thought about what else is valuable to me for Jay.  So I thought about ways to help relay his information for him and the QR code just came to mind.  Maybe it was on the ketchup bottle?

Q. From your point of view, who can benefit from QR Code iD’s products?

A. QR Code iD is for whoever is unable to self-advocate during a critical moment.  People who have Autism, Down Syndrome, Dementia and Alzheimer’s may wander and not be able to ask for help or provide necessary information to be reunited with family.  Also, people who have mental illnesses or physical conditions that hamper their ability to explain their needs.  Law enforcement and first responders often do not know what the situation is when first encountering a person.  All the ones I have spoken with see this as a great tool.  We have behavioral tips in my son’s profile so they know the best way to interact with him.

Q. Please explain how QR Code iD works.

A. To use QR Code iD you must first become a member.   Then you create a profile that can be edited any time.  Have your loved one wear the code.  If the person wanders or has a situation in which help is needed the code can be scanned by a smartphone with a free App, or the unique number associated with the code can be manually entered into the website to view the profile.

Q. Could you give us and idea of how QR Code iD may be used when trying to locate a child?

A. You would do all the normal things you would do when trying to locate a lost loved one. Call 911 etc. At the same time if someone were to find your loved one, they would see the big red “If I Need Help” and instructions on how to get to our website. There they would see the individual’s profile (see image) along with all the information they would need to reunite the lost person with their caregiver, such as phone number, any behavioral tips etc.

Q. Do individuals need to wear clothing that has the QR Code printed on it or are there other options available?

A. We offer a line of clothing that has designs by artists who have special needs.  The artwork was selected to show how cool and loved our kids are.  There are tee shirts, long sleeves, hoodies, polo’s and button downs.  We also have the codes printed to vinyl that can be heat pressed onto the clothing that you already own and feel comfortable in.  Also, we have codes on pins, Velcro, clips, business cards, adhesives and magnets.  We are testing temporary tattoos right now. We are listening to the feedback people give us and are always looking at ways to add to and improve our products.

Q. Are you able to provide these products/services outside the USA?

A. We are adding the necessary fields to the website right now to do international sales.  This should be in place by August.  But, if you contact me directly prior to that time, I can put the order through for you.

Q. Is there the ability to utilize the service in other languages?

The loved one enters the information into the profile. It is recommended to input the local language.

Q. What are the costs to families if they are interested in signing up for your service?

A. The annual membership is just $29/year. The clothing and other products are reasonably priced.

Q. Where can people sign up or find out more information?

A. Please visit QRcodeiD.org for information or to sign up.  Or you can call us directly at 661.52HOPE2.

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Thank you Erin, for taking the time to share this information with us today!  I think it is vital that parents and caregivers are informed about the different options that are available to them… and from there make the decision as to what works best for their particular situation.

Be sure to stop by QR Code iD’s website.