Heroes

A dad created an app to help his son with autism. It saved another child's life.

When children with autism started losing their lives to wandering off alone, one dad used technology to save them.

Every parent wants to keep their kids safe, but that task can be difficult for parents raising children with autism.

Being a parent is a challenging job, but it's even more complex for those raising children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a developmental disability that affects individuals socially and behaviorally. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 1 in 68 children in America has been identified as having ASD. That is a significant number for a disorder that currently has no cure.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, wandering off or "eloping" is a major cause for concern for children with ASD.


Children with ASD often wander off, and that can be extremely scary for parents. Photo via iStock.

Studies have shown that almost 50% of families dealing with ASD reported that their kids wandered off at least once between the ages of 4 and 17.

Many of these wandering cases don't end well. In 2015, the National Autism Association recorded 32 wandering deaths for the year, which was a new record. Many of these wandering children die due to drowning, walking into traffic, and hypothermia.

One dad with a son diagnosed with ASD decided to use technology to prevent wandering, and it saved a child's life.

Doron Somer is a co-founder of AngelSense, a GPS and voice-monitoring app designed for children with special needs.

Doron and his son, Itamar, are all smiles when they're together. Photo courtesy of Doron Somer, used with permission.

On Jan. 21, 2016, his company launched its First Responder Alert, which gives parents the ability to broadcast an emergency alert to a predefined group of trusted people in case a child wanders off.

"We have made it our mission to prevent, or at the very least limit, the potentially disastrous effects of this behavior," Doron said. "During an emergency, every minute is crucial, and the first hour is often critical in determining if the child will be found."

Precious minutes can tick away when parents panic and worry about who to contact for help. But the First Responder Alert app sends an instant push notification with the child's location to a predetermined team to begin a rescue mission.

That saves valuable time.

A click of a button on the AngelSense First Responder Alert will instantly notify a team to find the missing child. GIF via AngelSense, used with permission.

When the First Responder Alert was beta-tested in late 2015, it saved the life of a missing 17-year-old boy with autism in New York City by alerting the NYPD to track his location.

Since then, AngelSense helped save the lives of multiple children. That's all of the proof Doron needed to know he was onto something powerful.

There are a lot of GPS tracking apps out there. What makes this so special?

"AngelSense is much more than a tracker or child locater," Doron told Upworthy.

According to the company, AngelSense is the only device designed for children with sensory sensitivities. It is attached to the inner part of the child's pants pocket and can only be removed by a parent with a special magnet key.

Additionally, AngelSense learns the child's daily schedule and lets parents see their child's route and locations during the whole day in a user-friendly format.

The AngelSense app is designed to be extremely easy to use. Photo from AngelSense, used with permission.

If for some reason the child visits an unexpected location, parents are notified instantly.

If a child is in a place where he or she isn't supposed to be, parents will alerted immediately. Photo from AngelSense, used with permission.

Parents can also listen in to the child's surroundings to sense their well-being and ensure their safety. According to AngelSense, this feature helps validate emergency situations and helps parents improve special-needs care.

One of the coolest features about AngelSense is one that few people know about.

"Our entire customer care team is comprised of parents with autistic children," Doron said. "That allows them to have a flexible schedule with the ability to work from home."

That's an extremely valuable perk.

Additionally, AngelSense users who contact the company for help will know there will be a human being on the other end who knows exactly what they're going through.

The world can be scary at times for parents raising special-needs children. Props to Doron and AngelSense for helping to provide moms and dads with some much-needed peace of mind.

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