GPS device helps some adults with autism have more independence

Father of 22-year-old autistic man calls device lifesaver

By Deven Clarke - Crime and Justice Reporter, Dawn Jorgenson - Graham Media Group

SAN ANTONIO - Having a loved with autism can be scary if that person tends to wander off.

A San Antonio company is aiming to eliminate that concern for loved ones and caregivers by providing a GPS tracking device so small it can fit in the palm of your hand.

Donnie Palacios said the GPS device he purchased for his 22-year-old son, Skyylar, may truly be a lifesaver.

"He has the mental capacity of someone who is 3 to 5 years old," Palacios said. "It's a sense of security for us. We track everywhere he goes."

Palacios is able to set parameters that alert him through an app when his son enters and leaves specific locations.

"Basically, (I) use it when he's going to and from the adult day care center on his way home," Palacios said.

In December, a 15-year-old boy with autism was killed after he wandered off.

His body was found along the access road of Interstate 35 near Stonewall Street on the south side after he had been hit by a truck.

It's the type of tragedy that Mark Cavazos, who sells the devices out of Aces Spy Shop, is hoping to prevent.

"Our cards use all towers," he said. "Our system is accurate within 5 feet."

While the device may not seem like much to lug around, the Autism Treatment Center in San Antonio warns that it may irritate someone with autism who is sensitive to textures, and advises parents and caregivers to see how the person with autism tolerates the device.

Cavazos said that's the reason why his shop offers different ways to attach the device.

"They can be placed on a strap or anywhere inside a backpack or something like that," he said.

Autism Treatment Center officials said to choose a GPS device that can be worn a majority of the time. Palacios, whose son doesn't let his
bookbag out of his sight, is happy to know that, wherever Skyylar may wander, it will only take a click to find him.

The personal devices Cavazos sells range from about $50 to $90 and, depending on the device, batteries last four months to one year.

Click here to find out more about the GPS device and how to purchase one.

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