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How we're keeping our son with autism safe in our new home

February 04, 2016

Below is a post by autism mom and Autism Response Team member J-Jaye Hurley.

Safety is the number 1 priority for my family. Our son with autism, Jackson (age 10), is completely nonverbal and has many other medical conditions.  While we are working on him learning safety signs through his school and home ABA programs, he still requires constant assistance. He does not understand traffic or danger or strangers. He is attracted to ponds and pools. He cannot answer you if you call his name. He likes to disrobe and take off all of his clothes including coats and shoes, no matter the weather. This presents in the form of 24/7 monitoring and worry. The stress this causes families like mine is immeasurable. Jackson had gotten out of our former house several times over the years – each one scarier than the first. He walked out of our garage door two years ago. He went missing for over 30 minutes and we had to call 911. My husband eventually found him naked several streets over in a neighbor’s backyard. It was the longest 30 minutes of our life. All because we forgot to hit the garage door button one time.  

Get Autism Speaks' resources for preventing wandering.

When we moved into our new house in July, we knew things had to change and we were fortunate to enroll in the Vivint Gives Back security program forfamilies with special needs. Not only did they work with us on creating a system that was truly unique for our family’s needs, but they were considerate, professional and helpful during the installation. Our security system has truly been a lifesaver for our family. Since moving in, Jackson has managed to get out of the front door twice, as well as the garage door. Because of our security system, we were immediately alerted to which door had been opened (“RIGHT GARAGE DOOR OPENED!”) and that it was also left open. We knew exactly where to go and quickly retrieved him. Same thing happened with a downstairs window – it told us exactly which window was open so we could go directly to the right location. We also thought he had gotten outside of the house when we first moved in, as we couldn’t find him. However, our Vivint security panel showed us that all the doors and windows were secure so we knew to contain our search to the inside of the house, instead of running around the neighborhood (and yes, he was hiding in the basement behind a curtain). 

Another unique feature that Vivint offers families like mine is the addition of flood sensors in our bathrooms. I am sure they are designed for if a pipe bursts or a toilet overflows. Jackson loves to bathe and take showers, splash in water, etc. He has even been known to turn on the shower and then leave the door open and walk away. On Christmas Eve, Jackson was down in the basement playing, as he often does. We were upstairs when all of a sudden a huge alarm sounds and says “FLOOD DETECTION IN BASEMENT BATHROOM”! I ran to go shut off the alarm (which was then followed up by a security support call) as my husband went running down to the basement. Seems ole Jackson had stopped up the sink with a towel and had turned on the water, added soap, and was happily playing in the overflowing bubble water! If that alarm hadn’t sounded and Jackson had just come on upstairs (as he normally does), we would never have known that water was running as we don’t always go down to the basement. We could have had serious damage to the new house as well as it could have turned into a larger safety issue.


Our family has had other in home security systems, locks and signs before, but the customizable options from Vivint have made all the difference. Other families like mine should know about these specialized features offered from Vivint Gives Back. I love being able to watch over him using cameras in the basement play room or in his bedroom, instead of me hovering. This is a great example of how technology is helping allow my pre-teen with autism more independence. I feel more comfortable knowing I will be alerted if a window or door is open, and I am thrilled that the flood sensors will also help prevent water damage or other water safety concerns.  While we will always have to be vigilant in keeping Jackson safe, we are so grateful to have these additional safety measures in place.