Children with autism now eligible for MedicAlert emergency bracelets

Edmonton police will be able to use the bracelets to access a child’s address, emergency contact and medical information in a time of need.

A new program allows police to access the personal information of children with autism during an emergency

Edward Sun, 10, is one of the children in Edmonton who will receive a MedicAlert bracelet to help keep him safe in an emergency. (CBC)

Edward Sun, 10, tried on a MedicAlert bracelet for the first time Saturday.

"Do you have any other colours of these?" he asked, pointing to the ID bracelet used by police and first responders to identify people in an emergency.

Edward looked at photos of the ID bracelets before settling on a bright red one.

He and more than 125 other children with autism will now have a free MedicAlert bracelet to identify them in an emergency situation, thanks to a new program called Connect Protect. 

"When the police or any emergency services encounter a kid with autism who has a medical alert bracelet, it can give them access to all kinds of information and that's valuable," said Terri Duncan, executive director of Children's Autism Services Edmonton. The organization is a partner in the new program. 

Edmonton police will be able to use the bracelets to access a child's address, emergency contact and medical information in an emergency situation.

"With that bracelet and that ID number on the back of the bracelet, it's a valuable resource for us which helps us get that information we're looking for and getting that person home safe," Const. Bruce McGregor said.

A safety net for kids who wander

Amie Packer knows all too well what it's like to have a child wander away from home.

Her two sons, Eli, 6, and Ari, 4, both have autism. They have escaped from home several times by crawling underneath their fence or running out the back door.

Amie Packer has two sons who have autism. She says her sons will benefit from the new Connect Protect program with MedicAlert bracelets. (CBC)

"No matter how many locks we put on our doors or how much supervision we have, they are finding ways to escape," Packer said.

She said Ari once ran away and ended up several blocks away from home.

"It was the scariest moment of my life," she said.

If a stranger tries to help Packer's children, her sons might not be able to verbalize how to get home or what they need in an emergency, she said. But she said she's confident the MedicAlert bracelets will help change that.

"This way I know that in the short-term if someone finds them, there's that little bit of a safety net," Packer said.

There are more than 18,000 families in the Edmonton area affected by autism, according to Autism Edmonton.

MedicAlert bracelets have also been used by seniors with Alzheimer's, dementia or brain injuries in cities across Canada.