I had never even heard of a GPS tracker for kids until a few years ago. But now I don’t go a day without using them.
I will never forget the day I lost my oldest son. Yes, you read that right. I lost him. Judge me if you must, but it literally happened in a matter of seconds. We were in Macy’s and my youngest (who is also autistic) was having a come apart, so I turned to hand him a bottle. I turned back around and his brother was gone. JUST. LIKE. THAT.
He had popped under a clothes rack a few minutes before, and I quickly snatched him out, not thinking much of it. I just told him not to do it again. Well, when I turned my back for 5 seconds, I figured he popped back under the clothes rack. He wasn’t there. So here I am, heart pounding, totally panicking, frantically looking under the racks for my son.
It was less than a minute, I’m sure, but it felt like an eternity. Suddenly he came walking down a nearby aisle, completely calm, like nothing had happened. As if he hadn’t heard me yelling for him, and he couldn’t see the terrified look on my face. He apparently didn’t realize he had strayed.
Yes, I learned my lesson very quickly. I don’t take my eyes off that boy. Not for a second. I immediately started to search for a GPS tracker for kids, because I was thinking about all the “what if’s” after that incident.
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What is wandering in autism?
Children on the autism spectrum are more prone to wandering, or elopement, than their neutrotypical peers. This may be because of their inability to sense danger. While there is not currently a way to pinpoint the cause, it is well known that many autistic kids are flight risks.
If your child does not show any signs of fear or awareness when near a street or parking lot, they may not have a good understanding of the dangers of moving vehicles. Kids who do not seem upset when separated from their primary caretakers may also be in danger of wandering.
There are also the kids who bolt. You turn your back for an instant, and they run off. They may get scared or anxious, or they may simply run off because they don’t want to do whatever task they are currently engaged in.
Unexpected, loud sounds have been a trigger in my family. A quick trip to the post office ended with an even faster trip to the ER when a mail cart started down the corridor and frightened my oldest son. He was standing 2 feet from me. He bolted. THANK GOD he didn’t bolt the other way, because he would have gone through the glass door.
When he took off, he ran towards the inlet where the P.O. boxes were located. He was running so fast that he slammed into them, and sliced his ankle open on the lip underneath. (Sort of like under your kitchen cabinets, except it was sharp, torn up melamine.) I scooped him up as quickly as I could, and saw blood pouring out of his leg.
With his baby brother in the other arm, I ran, carrying both of them, to the car. (Nope, no one said a word or asked if everything was okay. Never mind the blood trail on the floor.) After several hospital staff assisted me in holding him down to stitch up the gaping wound, we headed home. I decided he wasn’t venturing into public places without noise cancelling headphones anymore.
Another lesson learned. Sigh…
So you can see there are different forms of wandering in autism. Some kids wander off unaware. Others bolt when they are scared, anxious, or just plain resistant. Having a GPS tracker for kids can be a lifesaver in any of these cases!
Exterior door alarms work wonders too! Ours are so loud that the boys avoid going near the doors now!
Find out more about autism safety measures here.
Can I buy any GPS tracker for kids?
There are so many products out there, it can be tough to figure out which one is right for you. I would suggest really diving into reviews before you purchase a GPS tracker for kids. Don’t just buy some random tracker from eBay! I’ll give you the lowdown on my two favorites.
AngelSense GPS tracker for kids
The AngelSense GPS tracker for kids has all the bells and whistles, so to speak. It is about the size of an iPod, and comes with a strong magnetic attachment system.
You can track AngelSense from anywhere, by downloading the app. It uses GPS signals to locate the device with great accuracy. It can even find your child within a building, using Wi-Fi signals.
This device is the only one that offers both one-way and two-way calling. One-way calls allow you to listen in and ensure the safety of your child’s setting. Two-way calls allow you to call your child and talk with them.
Another feature that I love about AngelSense is the alarm. If you lose your child in a crowded area, you can signal the alarm to sound, making it easy to quickly find them.
As far as the actual tracking goes, there isn’t a better system. Not only can AngelSense track your child in real time, but the app will also show you the entire day’s history. You can see where your child has been, when they arrived, when they departed, and the speeds of travel.
You can add first responders to your group, in case you need to turn your phone off for a period. This allows others to get notifications while you are unavailable. AngelSense also lets you name trusted places, and alerts you if your child is in an unfamiliar place.
If you’re worried about it getting wet, you can even get the waterproof case, which is amazingly waterproof with the double-locking magnetic strips. So you can take this guy through the sprinklers without a worry!
I could go on an on about the benefits of the AngelSense GPS tracker for kids. But I’m here to help you, not them, so I also have to tell you the downsides.
There are two things I don’t like at all about AngelSense. The first is the size. It’s just so bulky! Yes, there are several different wearing options, including an undershirt and a belt that you can purchase. For older children, I can see it working just fine with these options, or being attached to a cargo pocket. But for my boys (3 and 4), it is a bit large. The can wear it, and they do, but it can be uncomfortable.
I could get past the size if they resolved my bigger issue: the battery life. AngelSense is awesome, but the battery lasts less than a day. You have to make sure you recharge it every night. This drives me nuts. But other than that, I love AngelSense. It is the most accurate GPS tracker for kids, and has so many features that others simply don’t offer.
Jiobit GPS tracker for kids
My other favorite GPS tracker for kids is the Jiobit. It resolves the issues of size and battery power! It is about the size of a key FOB, and the battery lasts up to a week. This makes me happy!
On the other hand, there is no “history” option for you to view your child’s day. There is no alarm feature to quickly find them in a crowded area. And the GPS capabilities are not quite up to par when compared to the AngelSense.
You can set the radius of trusted places to anywhere between 100 and 800 feet. You can also set a wireless fence! The Jiobit does track in real time, and sends you alerts when your child leaves a trusted place or arrives at an unknown location. The alerts are sometimes a bit delayed compared to AngelSense, but this is likely due to Bluetooth signal strength issues in certain areas.
One really nice feature is that the Jiobit is waterproof! No more worries about the splash pad!
With the multiple wearing options, there is no reason why you can’t find a way for your child to use this device. It comes with different accessories for clipping and locking the tracker onto your child’s clothing or shoes.
If you just need a device to find your child in the case that they wander, this is likely the best option. I don’t need to see a history of where they’ve been, or be able to call them and guide them home, because they are always with me! I just need to be able to get to them quickly if something happens and they elope.
Overall, Jiobit is a great GPS tracker for kids. It is small, waterproof, and affordable, with a long battery life. You can get $20 off by using my special code!
The perfect GPS tracker for kids on the autism spectrum
So which one is it? Honestly, you’re the only one who can answer that question. If my boys were going to school, or anywhere else away from me, I would be using AngelSense on a daily basis. Since we homeschool, and they are practically always with me, I use the Jiobit most of the time. We do have a subscription for both, and both devices have many benefits!
Has your child ever eloped? Let me know in the comments!