Several years ago I started wearing a medical ID necklace – you know, one of those tags with a caduceus along with contact and medical info. I was in good health, but I just wanted to make sure that info was available to anyone who might encounter me if I were incapacitated from a wreck or other type of emergency.
I’ve become as attached to the necklace as my cell phone. I don’t go anywhere without it. And I’ve become an advocate for everyone, regardless of age or health, wearing such identification. It would surely make things easier on EMTs and others – plus it would likely save lives.
Which makes me wonder why I haven’t yet been proactive in seeing that my five-year-old autistic granddaughter has something similar. Angelina goes to school, plays in parks, takes swim lessons, rides in cars, and does all sorts of normal things that might present an emergency for which that information could be helpful if not life-saving.
Persons with autism often lack danger awareness, are often prone to wandering, and often live with other health issues. Plus, autism is not easily identified for a first responder. Some autistic persons are nonverbal and/or have intellectual disabilities. Even those who are “high functioning” may be overwhelmed by emergency situations and unable to self-advocate. And these days, since schools have to keep up with every student’s allergies, a wristband or bracelet is a great way to always have that information visible.
We autism grandparents are wonderfully positioned to advocate for such identifications for our grandchildren. We likely have more time than do the parents to research the various types of identification. And we can set the example by wearing something ourselves.
Autism Speaks is the first stop for learning about the various options. Go to https://www.autismspeaks.org/safety-products-and-services to see all of their products. There is of course lots of other information on other websites.
I’ve learned that there are many options for irremovable wristbands and bracelets, including a wide variety of colors and designs. I suspect that Angelina would pick something in her favorite color, pink. And they can be customized to match anyone’s interests.
Do you know what ICE means? In Case of Emergency. The ICE telephone number is the most important piece of information for any wristband or bracelet. After that, there should be name, diagnosis, medications, and allergies. Some bracelets offer the option of a QR code: anyone who scans it will link to a site with all of the information. And there are all sorts of GPS tracking devices – albeit they have to be attached or inserted to clothing or backpacks and thus are not irremovable. But it is great to know where your child is if the bus she is riding on doesn’t show up on time.
There are also anklets, patches, pins, clips, ID cards, shoe tags, etc. But the most important thing is to use something that won’t (can’t) be removed and that is waterproof, convenient, and comfortable.
If your grandchild doesn’t want to wear an identification device, that’s where we grandparents often have time to patiently – sometimes over days or weeks – make our grandchild enjoy wearing it. We can start by wearing something similar ourselves.
Then we can use the small-step-by-small-step method. “First, simply TOUCH the wristband.” “Wonderful! You did it! I’m so proud of you!” Then, later or perhaps the next day, “Now let’s put it around your wrist while I count to three.” Then more praise. You get the idea. And sometimes a visible timer can help. And of course rewards (special candy, special TV show, etc.) are often helpful.
We can make up stories to help introduce our grandchild to the wristband. For example: “Can you say hello to this little wristband? His name is Willie and he is very lonely and sad. He doesn’t have any friends and nobody will play with him. Would you like to hold him?” And you can go from there . . . Eventually Willie and our grandchild may become inseparable.
Just two rules about getting our grandchildren to wear the identification device. Make it fun and don’t give up.
Finally, is there any downside to wearing such identification? I’ve learned that some persons believe that it can be like placing an unfair “label” on someone. (Like me perhaps being labeled old or sick because I wear a medical necklace.) I prefer to view it as a statement rather than a label. And the statement is the same for my grandchild as it is for me: In case I need help in an emergency, I want to assist the helpers in advance by making it a little easier for them to help me.
Our grandchildren don’t fully understand that all sorts of emergencies are possible each day, and that an identification band can be a lifesaver. As grandparents we can first do the research and then introduce this idea to our grandchildren and their parents. And if you’re like me, you’ll get your own bracelet or necklace first.