Tracking devices using radio, Bluetooth or GPS technology significantly reduce the frequency — and associated risks — of wandering behavior among children with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disorders, as well as minimizing parental anxiety, according to survey results presented at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting.
“Despite the development of several types of electronic tracking devices aimed at helping to reduce risks related to wandering by children with autism and other developmental disorders, currently there are no published findings regarding the effectiveness of these devices or their impact on families,” Laura McLaughlin, BS, a developmental and behavioral pediatrics research assistant at the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center, said in a press release.
To assess the impact of these devices on families who care for a child with autism, researchers conducted an anonymous online questionnaire. This survey, which was sent to autism organizations and further distributed to families, provided the researchers with information regarding demographics, developmental diagnoses and their severity, past wandering behavior and the strategies implemented to prevent it.
Participants also included information about their use of tracking devices; for those who opted to not use a device, questions concerning quality of life in the past year, while those who did use devices answered questions regarding their quality of life before use and after implementation. Data collected were included for those residing within the U.S. between the ages of 4 and 18 years with a diagnosis of ASD (n = 1,345).
According to results, 23.8% of surveyed parents had previously used more than one tracking device. Parents who reported current use claimed that “peace of mind” was their top reason for purchasing a device.
The use of a device also affected parental decision regarding where their children with ASD can spend time, including with friends and families when a parent is not available (87.1%); when a device was used, only 60% of parents reported this worry. The researchers noted improved quality of life in 95.6% of surveys after implementation (46.6% “somewhat better;” 49.1% “much better”).
“In recent years, parents and professionals have become increasingly aware of not only the dangers associated with wandering by children with autism, but also the emotional toll this places on families and the limits it imposes on activities,” Andrew Adesman, MD, FAAP, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center, said in the release. “Given the magnitude of safety risks and parental concerns, it is important to find evidence-based solutions that reduce the likelihood of injury to children and can provide parents with less reason for worry.” —by Katherine Bortz.
Adesman A, et al. Abstract. Presented at: The Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting; May 6-9, 2017; San Francisco, CA.
Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.