How to Keep Your Bolting Child Safe

Bolting is very common with kids with Down syndrome and Autism. It’s also common with some kids with other disabilities, and it’s different from just “running away,” – it’s running away without conscience, with a complete disregard for safety or caution, almost an inability to stop. Some people call it “eloping” and others simply “running” but for this post, I’m going to call it “bolting.”

How to keep your bolting child safe is one of the biggest concerns for many parents of kids with disabilities. I know; I’ve been in that particular place of terror one time too many myself. It’s absolutely gut-wrenching, and I think only another parent of a child with a disability really gets it.

I initially wrote this post 5 years ago after my then-3 year old daughter with Down syndrome figure out how to undo the door lock, slipped out of the house, under a gate and was found wandering around the street trying to cross to get to the big playground.

I have updated the post with the most current tools that we parents have. There are affiliate links in this post – and all that means is that if you buy something using a link here, Amazon or the company will give me a percentage but you will pay no more than you would have. Not all of the links are affiliate. Nothing is listed here that was not used by me or recommended to me, and nothing is listed here for any reason other than to help you.

Without further ado, let’s get to the tips!

Top GPS Tracking Devices

I really like this option, personally. There are a lot of variations on the same theme – attach something to your child and an alarm will blare when they have gone beyond a set distance from you. AngelSense also comes with a voice monitoring option (to listen in).

a. AngelSense GPS Tracker for Children with Disabilities – this has the solid gold stamp. It’s been around a while and has stellar reputation for tracking our kids.

In addition to the GPS, it has a ‘listen in’ voice monitoring option. This means that if you have any concerns about what’s going on around your child at school or throughout the day, this would be a way to assure yourself. It is can be expensive though, and requires a monthly fee (after the first year which is included in the device price). Right now there is a summer sale happening (about half price).

angelsense tracker

b. Jiobit: This new whiz-kid in the GPS tracking community – apparently doing what AngelSense does, but for far less money (and without the listening-in option). It hasn’t been out for long so there aren’t a lot of reviews on how well it works over time, but it is fast-becoming popular.

c. Gizmo LG Gizmo Pal 2 Blue (Verizon Wireless) – this is just for Verizon, but it looks great. It’s under $200 with no subscription service (other than your normal phone one)  and will locate the child.

d. CMKJ Smartwatch for kids – this looks simple, straightforward, inexpensive and kid-friendly. Waterproof, with GPS.

e.   AppleWatch. For a younger child, the band can be removed and the watch head placed it in a waterproof pouch as a necklace or clip. Use the “find my phone” feature or “locate family”.

For an older child, it could simply be worn as a watch.

Identification Wearables

According to the Police, only phone numbers, not names should be listed.

a.: I liked Road ID Anklet a lot . It’s great because it goes on the ankle and looks like it will pack a lot of information on that little plate.

b.  ID Bracelets are a great option for kids that like jewelry .

Sound & Flashing Light Alerts

a.  A lot of people seem to use Door Open Chime Alarms. It’s simple: the alarm goes off when the door is opened. You can program them and get them to stop/go. They are inexpensive and seem to be easy to install.

Check out the version that is better for us deaf, thanks to flashing light alerts and the option for every loud volume and/or vibration with Central Alert CA-360 Combo 2 Notification System

b.  Squeaky Shoes This is something really simple, but if you can hear the high pitch from the squeak and if your child is wearing these, you’ll be able to have an idea of where your child is.

Physical & Visual Barriers

For the truly savvy kid (read: YOUR KID), gates aren’t likely to be anything more than a hurdle. It’s going to slow them down but not stop them. Still, when you are dealing with kids as fast as ours, a hurdle is still a desirable thing, right? There are a ton of gates out there, here are 3 types that caught my eye:

a.  Extra Tall Gates: My friend sent methis linkto some gates that she said were great with her child. They look super.

b. Tension Mounted Anywhere Gates These are what I went for as I need to have something that is portable, something that doesn’t need to be installed with a screwdriver.

c.  These Retractable Driveway Guards are great because while they will NOT stop our kids from going, they serve as a bright visual reminder of how far to go. Easy to install, portable.

d.  Deadboltsare a must for any family with a child who might bolt. If you have a child with a propensity to escape, GET ONE NOW.

There are hundreds out there to choose from; this is just one that came recommended by a friend.

Simple Solutions While Outside

a.  I know, I know. Putting a Monkey on Their Backs Harnesses  is in essence a leash on your kid isn’t attractive and makes you feel like the crunchy Berkeley parents are going to spit on you and call CPS. But what’s better – that or calling the Police yourself because your kid ran too fast through legs in a crowd and you lost her?

 NOTE: I initially only got my daughter to wear this after a lot of effort. Her big brother (and superstar) wore it around the house to help out (= make it desirable). She ended up loving it, which easily paved the way to the next step, see below:

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b.  I went and bought anextra-large dog collar with a retractable sturdy leash when my daughter outgrew her monkey-harness. The extra-large collar will fit around her waist like a belt and I simply attach the leash to her waist.

She is 8 years old and we still use it.SaveSave

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fun neon clothes from Target! Click for more

c.  It feels a little obvious, but: Neon Clothes.. I mean, if you dress your kid in neon, it’s a lot easier to see them. Neon clothes are kind of “in” right now, so it’s a good time to stock up on some cute designs (green shirt here links to Amazon; pink shirt at left links to Target 🙂 )

d. The BOB Revolution is going to take your child with Down syndrome far past 5 years old, and it’s worth the price.

Read my post on the BOB Revolution – I have a double BOB myself, for my 8 year old daughter and her 5 year old typically developing brother. Pricey but definitely worth it.

keep your bolting child safe
BOB Duallie: holding my 7 year old runner with her 5 year old brother. Click for my full review

In Sum: How to Keep Your Bolting Child Safe

Like most other parents of a bolting child, I’ve experienced those moments of sheer terror, not knowing where my child has run off to. I’ve also had the moments where she is sees something interesting and is about to make a break for it, cars be damned. Heart in my throat, I’ve run faster than I ever thought I could, and I’ve been lucky.

We don’t have to rely on luck though. Not when there are tools like the ones above that we can employ,

I wanted to mention two more things:

a. Project Lifesaver: connected to a regional saving service (ours is the local fire department). Check it out through the link there.

My service dog and my daughter

b. Service dogs: I had a hearing dog and my dog ended up helping me tremendously with my bolting daughter. Kids with Down syndrome, autism and other disabilities qualify for a service dog, so it’s worth looking into your child having their own dog.

Good luck, and if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out. If I don’t have the answer, I’ll refer you to someone who will.

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Keep Your Bolting Child Safer

TrackerCost Pros of TrackerCons of Tracker
AngelSense GPS Tracker $$$$Stellar record of being a reputable GPS tracker. Listen-in options.It's expensive
Jiobit Tracker
Jiobit
$$$Clips on to anything, easy to useNew (doesn't have a long record of tracking kids)
Gizmo $$$Like a watch, great for older kidsVerizon-only
CMKJ Smartwatch for Kids $$Simple watch with GPSTrack record is not extensive
Apple Watch $$$Integrates well with existing family Mac systemsMay require some macgyvering (remove watch band for younger kids, put in waterproof pouch)
Road Tags
$Wrist or ankle versions, easyCan potentially be removed by child
Door Alarms
$Will alert you if the child tries to get out through the door. Can also be used on windows
Door Alarms with Flashing Lights $$Can connect with windows and doors and will flash alerts as well as higher volume
Squeaky Shoes $Helps you locate your child when s/he is wearing themOther children might be also be wearing squeaky shoes
Extra Tall Gates $Will help slow your child downYour child will figure out how to open it after a while
Tension Mounted Anywhere Gate $Portable, easy to install; will slow your child downYour child will figure out how to open it at some point
Retractable Driveway Guards $Portable, easy to install, excellent visual barrier for kidsVisual barrier only
Deadbolts $Will keep the door locked from your child
Stuffed Animal Harness
$Cute, easy to use and will keep your child with youThey will not be strong enough for a stronger bolting child
Extra large dog collar and retractable leash $Strong and useful for years. Use the collar as a belt and retract the leash.
Neon clothes $Fantastic visual aid for parentsother kids might be wearing the same color
BOB Revolution $$$$Will last longer than any other stroller for a child with Down syndrome, and can cover any terrainPricey

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You want to know how to keep your bolting child safe? This post will cover low and high tech tools, simple ideas proven solutions for children who run off | disability | disability awareness | down syndrome | autism | kids with special needs | special needs and safety | running child with down syndrome | autistic runner | safety and special needs | safety and disability |
Meriah
Meriah Nichols is a career counselor, teacher and blogger. Single mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one gifted 2E), she is also a Trekkie who likes her coffee hot and black.
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10 Comments

  1. We have a 5 yr old runner, he started at 2. High locks, door alarms, and a lock on the sliding glass door that is clear and folds up. It has a tiny pin like a wire that you have to pull to release it, and his poor fine motor skills made that one a great one. He climbs everything, and loves to go off. We got a shepherd to help be hisbuddy. He doesn’t stop him though, but he does help us know which direction to look. It is a huge challenge. I’m frustrated by the costs of some of these systems.

    • I’m frustrated too, Tami. I feel like there should be some sort of program for parents of bolters – kids that really just shoot off and it’s unsafe. A lending library, or something under the sheriff’s umbrella.

  2. I have Squeaker Sneekers for my two year old…best ever! We used them to help motivate her to walk, but I realized right away that they would help keep her close to me! Great article!

  3. All these thoughts are great, wish they had a lot of these 20 years ago when my son Fox was little. One Halloween, I dressed him as a puppy to go with the “baby lease” that was popular then. I can tell you, he could’ve easily pulled me along in my chair by himself.

    But to share the laugh, when I read the title on google plus my mind thought of my son and I said “Duck Tape?”

  4. My 5 year old is essentially non-verbal. She doesn’t bolt from me but has walked out of her classroom at school. (I should say her PREVIOUS school.) After that, I took her picture to the local police station. I put her name, my name, our address, and my phone numbers on it. That way, if she ever does get lost, they will know who she is and where she belongs. And they can get that info to other stations if she gets lost somewhere else.

  5. Hi, My name is Sandy and my little treasure is named Abigail! I do have a couple other suggestions that worked GREAT until she of course mastered them (as will yours ;o)
    An alternative to a harness was an item I found years before Abbie was born. At the time it was called a Hand-Helper. It simply went around the adults wrist with a Velcro bracelet, had a ‘springy’ cord (like old phone cords) and a bracelet for the kiddo on the other end. It gave her freedom, kept her safe and felt less like a leash (therefore got fewer scowl’s from the general public who have NO clue about the bolting-skills of OUR kiddos)!
    The other is a different type of flip latch for (my) front door. It’s different because it has a spring on the inside therefore in order to open (I’ll try to locate a brand name). The persons hand must be able to grip, pull to the right, then pull forward. Abbie’s hands were too small and not strong enough unto she was about 11 years old. Then one day her older brother (grrr…22 year old) came to the door and encouraged her to open it so she got a stool and finally had the strength to manipulate it!….But it did give us 10 years of peace ;o)

  6. Hi everyone. Thank you so much for these suggestions. I have been seriously stressed and overwhelmed with my 4 year old darting off in parking lots and figuring out all of the locks on the gates and doors. I am appreciative! Thank you!

    • you bet – that is really nerve-wracking. I might also suggest a guide dog too, actually. Most all kids with disabilities qualify for one. My own hearing dog stays with Moxie almost all the time, and this is an enormous relief for me, as I know she’s safe. Not that I want her roaming out by herself – it can be really dangerous what with the mountain lions, bears and snakes. But at least I know she’s with Kianna.

  7. Pingback: The Best Stroller for a Child with a Disability

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