On Losing My Toddler in Tokyo: Moms, Dads, and Caregivers Everywhere, You Need to Read This! New Program Helps keep your Loved Ones Safe!
You know those people that see a problem in the world, identify it, create a plan to fix it, and then dedicates their lives implementing said plan?
Erin Wilson, and her husband Bruce, are those people. Parents of two children, one with moderate-to-severe autism, they decided they were going to do something to try to help protect their autistic child (or any child, for that matter!) from wandering off following a close call at their son’s school. Luckily, their son was alright, but if another mother had not spotted their son, Jay, just inside the school’s (unlocked) gate after class had begun, the outcome could have been disastrous. In an effort to keep him, and other children, safe, Erin and Bruce decided to do something to help protect their kiddo in the event that he needed help and was unable to verbalize his thoughts, concerns, fears, and needs. The “If I Need Help,” a California non-profit organization, is the result of these efforts.
The concept is simple: your child is wearing a patch with a unique QR ID code on their person. Anyone with a smart phone can then scan the bar code and gain access to emergency contact information, and those without a smart phone can simply go to QRCODEiD.org and enter in the unique QR ID number listed on the side of the patch, at which point all emergency contact information pops up instantly.
- Each patch comes with directions to quickly register each patch. The whole process takes just a few moments.
This is how they look up close:
- The QR ID patches come in a variety of colors and can be sewn onto your kiddo’s clothes, or if you bring it to a local cleaners they can sew them there, as well. (The blurry area is the unique ID area, I blurred it out for security reasons.)
The success stories are already starting to roll in. Team Leuck writes:
Amazing! I tell every parent I meet about QR Code ID. I was a little shocked to hear that we might be one of the first success stories. We have a large family (5 children) and travel with lots of stuff. While attending an all day sporting event for our son we were asked to move to a different field after each game. We were in the process of setting up for the last game when we realized our 5 year old was missing. My husband and I left the other children with friends and split up to find him. While frantically running across the fields towards the restroom I got a call. A woman had seen the patch on my son’s shirt, scanned it, and called me. That feeling of gratefulness and being able to breathe again was overwhelming. Even more with our kiddo being autistic and possibly not able to clearly communicate his needs. We picked him up at the sandbox with lots of hugs and tears. Thank you Erin and QR Code ID, you have a client for life! Love, Team Lueck
Within the autism community, wandering is a major problem. A recent study in the journal Pediatrics (http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/130/5/870) indicated that 49% of children diagnosed with autism have wandered. Therefore, it’s imperative that parents of children with ASD be proactive and create a wandering prevention/reaction plan ahead of time. Also, the National Autism Association has a decent wandering prevention/response plan that is easy to implement, combined with a free download, the Big Red Safety Toolkit. I highly recommend every parent with a child on the spectrum download and read through this toolkit.
While wondering is notably a problem for the autism community, this is not a problem that is specific only to spectrum diagnoses. This is part of why I so deeply appreciate Bruce & Erin’s work. They have generalized their program to apply to any caregivers. While certainly designed with autism in mind, this product could be a lifesaver in countless scenarios:
military families traveling throughout airports,
any family at a major theme park, museum, or fair (think Disney World in July!),
any time you have to count on someone else to care for your child (for example, what happened with Jay at his school),
Any large place that is new or unfamiliar, with a lot of strangers,
Senior citizens that have dementia or “sun-downers,” or even just occasionally get confused,
- Children who sleepwalk, ect
I believe that, at a minimum, every family with young children, with or without developmental/cognitive/neurological challenges, should have some form of wandering prevention/response plan in place. The “If I Need Help,” team is working on other products as well: everything from identification cards, key chains, and backpack tags. If you don’t want to sew, they also have pins that can you pinned to your child’s shirt, and you can actually create your own tee-shirts if you’d like.
The Time I lost my Toddler… in Japan…
We did not have any such plan when my son was young, and we certainly could have used a program like this in 2004. I believe most parents would admit our toddlers/young children have wandered off for a few minutes in a store at least once. Thus, we all know the heart-pounding, painful ache in our hearts and heads as our minds go crazy with worry. Like everything else in my families’ lives, our experience in this regard was particularly traumatic, and in it’s own way, unique.
Cassius was turning two, and we were heading to the hospital in Yokosuka for his umpteenth surgery. He was sick: running a 105 degree fever, and I had him packaged up safe and sound in his stroller. In Japan, buildings are built “Up” instead of “out,” which is why the Tokyo skyline is lined with skyscrapers and blinking, beautiful lights. We entered the hospital, realized the operating room was on the 22nd floor, and headed to the elevator. Once inside, to my objection, my husband decided to let Cassius get out of his stroller, to stretch his legs a few moments before spending the next few days recovering in a hospital bed.
Now, if you haven’t noticed this yet, in my world, everything is always my husbands’ fault (sarcasm noted). This story is no exception.
As we stepped off the elevator, both my husband and I assumed — falsely — that the other parent was holding Cassius’s hand. We stepped off the elevator, glanced over our shoulders, just in time to see our toddler push the only buttons he could reach: “Ground Floor” and “Door Close.” In an instant the doors closed and our sick, orange and purple haired toddler disappeared from our eyes. I sent my husband running down the stairs — all 22 flights — while I watched in absolute horror as the elevator stopped at more than a dozen floors on the way down.
- Cassius at 22 months, AKA “Orange and Purple Haired Elevator Houdini” — Seriously, did nobody in the Japanese Hospital find it odd that this child was wandering around unattended? (We dyed his hair for fun, they were going to shave most of his hair in surgery anyway, so… yeah. I did that. Don’t judge me.)
He was missing for close to a half an hour — the longest 30 minutes in my whole life –. We spent this time frantically trying to find anyone that could speak English (unsuccessfully), and sprinting floor by floor looking for our toddler. When we finally did find him, we found him rounding with a team of Japanese physicians on the 6th floor, who apparently did not find his presence to be unusual at all.
I’ve never held him so tight in my life.
As parents, I think it is fair to admit we’ve all had more than our share of “close calls.” If you have a child that is unable to consistently and adequately communicate their needs (even and especially when overwhelmed or overstimulated), or has a tendency to wander, that fear is gravely exaggerated and real. Many of us use pediatric leashes, but if we are honest with ourselves, we know that there is no way we can keep them leashed all the time — nor would we want to.
Within the autism community, we are flooded with reports of young Autists wondering off. Being fairly involved with several large autism parenting support groups online, it seems almost weekly we are passing around pictures looking for someone’s baby. We all stop, hold our breath, and say a prayer. Many times that child is found wandering along a road somewhere; but all too often, they get seriously injured or they are found not breathing. If we are honest with ourselves, we know that one day that picture we are passing around on Facebook could be our child: and that reality is absolutely terrifying. This is why I beg each of you to do your research, understand why your child wanders, and put a proactive prevention/response plan in place. It might just save your child’s life.
It is with this in mind, I am very excited to share the fruits of Erin and Bruce’s hard work with each of you. Within just a few moments, I was able to create a unique, free online ID, with emergency contact information. This ID can be emailed to other caregivers and emergency contacts, and there is even a secured (password-protected) area where you could list essential information for certain caregivers (I used this space to include my son’s physician’s information, his medical history, current medications, allergies and triggers). Here’s an example of what the online ID looks like.
I truly, truly believe this product could be a life-saver. For more information, please feel free to visit Erin and Bruce’s website at www.qrcodeid.org, or connect with them on Facebook: (www.facebook.com/qrcodeid) or Twitter: @QRCodeiD1. You could also call the “If I Need Help Team,” at 1-661-542-6732 or email them at: firstname.lastname@example.org. I encourage each person who reads this to share this information with other parents or caregivers, in addition to considering the information for your own children. Erin, especially, has made this her life mission, and she is quick to respond to emails/phone calls/tweets. She’s one of those people that just inspires everyone around her and redefines being a “Super-Mom,” while still being so open, accepting and down to earth. You will be glad you have met her, I promise.
Erin & Bruce, on behalf of all the loved one’s lives that your product has saved, and will save, I want to say THANK YOU.
The next life you save could be the life of my child.