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Parents of Sons With Autism Win a Major Battle With School

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Dayann and Brian McDonough’s sons, 10-year-old Douglass and 8-year-old Donovan, both have autism and are prone to elopement. The boys wandered away from home and school a total of 14 times over the last two years, and after installing alarms and extra locks on their family home, the McDonoughs had their children wear GPS tracking devices.

Elopement, or wandering, is a daily challenge for many parents of children with autism — 49 percent of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have a tendency to wander or bolt from safe settings, according to the National Autism Association.

While the tracking devices allowed the McDonoughs to breathe a sigh of relief, the boys’ schools refused to let Donovan and Douglass wear the trackers on campus. “We were blindsided,” Brian McDonough told NBC New York. “They didn’t want to listen to common sense.”

“I haven’t slept in my own bed for about the past four years because I’m so terrified he’s going to run off and I’m not going to hear him in time,” Dayann McDonough added to ABC 7 Eyewitness News.

The schools claimed GPS devices could threaten the confidentiality of other students, but after a month of discussions, the McDonoughs finally convinced the school district to allow their boys to wear trackers to class.

Parents attach the trackers to their child’s clothing, and the devices are connected to an app called AngelSense. The tracker can only be removed with a magnetic key, and it sends parents alerts on the whereabouts of their children. It also has a “listen in” feature that allows parents to hear real time audio of what their child is doing.

David Feller, superintendent of North Merrick school district, where Donovan is a student, told NBC New York. “We would not put up any roadblocks to a device designed to ensure a child’s safety.”

I feel very safe,” Douglass McDonough told ABC 7 Eyewitness News.

Originally published: November 3, 2015
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