If you are the parent of a child who elopes, you might have mixed emotions about sending them back to school. After a long summer, you are excited for your child to get back into their regular routine. You are also looking forward to them seeing their friends and being around other children. You might also feel an overwhelming amount of stress. The thought of your child eloping from school can trigger emotions of fear and anxiety. Here are some tools and tips that might help you feel more at ease sending your child back to school:
Communicate with the school
Set up a meeting with your child’s teacher or IEP team prior to the start of the school year. Include anyone that will be working with them on a regular basis. Communicate all your concerns with elopement. What does elopement look like at home or when you are out in public? Let them know of any incidents that happened over the summer and what triggered them. Are there certain things that cause your child to feel stressed or anxious? Are there any behavior patterns that you’ve noticed leading up to an elopement? Discuss any tips and strategies that help at home that they can utilize at school. Once you have communicated your concerns with your child’s school team, it is important to have a plan in place.
Create a plan
If a student is at risk for elopement, it is crucial to request 1:1 support on their IEP. They should always have an adult with them who can help redirect them. In the classroom, position their desk away from any exterior doors. If they are outside during recess or P.E., make sure multiple adults are present to help keep an eye on them. The school should have a team of staff members designated to help in the event of an elopement at school. They should all be equipped with walkie talkies. If an incident occurs where your child elopes off school property, they should immediately alert the local police department. Many police departments have programs where you can add your child’s information to their database incase they were to go missing. The database includes a picture, physical description, disability information, emergency contacts, and any helpful information that you want to include. Include places of interest and any tips that can be useful in locating your child. You can also include information like their favorite food, drink, toys, songs, or movie which can be helpful in assisting and calming your child.
If you have a child who is non-verbal or has trouble communicating, it is important to have them wear some form of medical ID. Invest in a form of ID that your child will be comfortable wearing and cannot remove. If they are sensitive to wearing bracelets, I recommend purchasing the shoe ID from ROAD iD. Their ID tags are made from medical grade stainless steel, and they provide a lifetime warranty on their engravings.
The best tool to invest in is a GPS tracker. Having access to your child’s location at anytime of day can give you real peace of mind. If your child rides the bus, it is comforting to know exactly when they get to and from school. There are many brands and models of GPS trackers to choose from. Important features to look for in a GPS tracker include real-time location updates, size, durability, water-resistance, and long battery life. Some trackers include 2-way calling and listen-in features. Prior to purchasing a tracker, check with your school principal to make sure they don’t have any restrictions on certain features. For example, AngelSense is banned from certain school districts for their listen-in feature. One GPS tracker I highly recommend is the Jiobit from Life360.
Jiobit offers multiple ways to attach to your child’s clothing including a Pin-Lock Pouch that cannot be removed without a key. This is a great option for parents who worry about their kids removing their GPS trackers.