When my daughter was little, I taught her a game plan for what to do if we ever got separated unexpectedly. We practiced how to look for a helper and what she could say so that we could be reconnected as quickly as possible. I still held her little hand in public and watched her like a hawk but I felt like if something were to ever go awry, she was well equipped.
When my son, who has Childhood Apraxia of Speech, was little, he was non-verbal so while I could teach him how to look for a helper, I was going to have to find a different set of tools to communicate for this little guy.
Enter Safety IDs. We went this route because we wanted essential information to be available immediately and reliably. He did not have the words, Sign Language would only be effective if someone could be found who understood sign, AAC would only be effective if he happened to have it with him when we separated and though I believe he probably could have gestured anything in the whole world, I wasn’t taking chances.
We used 4 different types of ID: a generic bracelet, a Medic-Alert bracelet, safety tattoos and good old indelible ink. The are pros and cons to every option so I encourage you to think about your main goals and choose a form (or forms) of ID that really suits your needs.
Store Bought Bracelet
Most pharmacies sell some form of Medical ID and there are many options online as well. The exact brand we used is available online (https://well.ca/products/vital-id-adult-medical-id-wristband_28227.html) but they all seem quite similar.
Pros: These tend to be very reasonably priced and they are quick to obtain. They are easy to update and, with many, information is kept discreetly inside the bracelet to maintain privacy.
Cons: These can be easily overlooked, especially those without a symbol (like the caduceus) to signify that the bracelet contains medical information so it’s important your child knows how to share this information if it is ever needed.
Tips: We found that the store bought bracelet we purchased was not a very good fit which made it uncomfortable for our son and he was able to easily remove the bracelet. I recommend having your child try it on in store before you make your purchase.
Medic-Alert IDs come inscribed with the medical issue, a hotline number and a unique code for a responder to quote in case of emergency. Medic-Alert’s Canadian website is www.medicalert.ca. For me, Medic-Alert offered peace-of-mind because I could trust it would talk for my son in a medical emergency if I could not.
We chose a small emblem stainless steel bracelet because my son could not remove it on his own and because it suited our budget but there are many styles to choose from!
Pros: Medic-Alert trains Canada’s first responders to check for the official MedicAlert emblem. In an emergency, you can expect whomever is treating your child to make use of their ID and to access their detailed health record 24-7 (and in many languages!)
Cons: This is a subscription based services and so the cost is ongoing. There is no place for contact information on the bracelet itself (though the hotline will contact you if someone has called in) so although this may be very useful if you are separated from you child in a medical emergency, it is not an incredibly efficient way to reconnect if your child is lost.
Tips: There is limited space on the ID itself so you will need to make your words count. We chose “Apraxia – Non-Verbal” – short and sweet.
SafetyTat is a temporary safety tattoo available at www.safetytat.com/. We purchased these directly from CASANA when they sold them a few years back. I really liked these tattoos and a big reason for this is that my son liked them and wanted to show people so I felt like he might remember to do so if we got separated.
Pros: I found these to be very durable – they could last an entire day at the water park without issue. You can also choose whether you wish the temporary tattoo to be highly visible (on a hand) or more discreet (on the upper arm, under a sleeve).
Cons: These are great for certain occasions, like vacations or field trips, but only last about 24 hours each.
Tips: SafetyTat has both generic options and option for you to create custom tats! You can buy tats with your phone number on them but if you buy blank ones, you can write in the number of whichever caregiver will be with your child that day.
Yes, I am including a marker! We realized I had forgotten all of our son’s ID when we walked through the gates of Disneyland and I was feeling very uncomfortable when a balloon vendor overheard our dilemma and handed me her Sharpie Marker. It. Worked. Like. A. Charm. We jotted down our cell phone numbers on the kids arms and added a little note on my son to explain he was non-verbal.
Pros: It’s cheap, you can write whatever you want where ever you want (under clothing for added privacy), a sharpie can fit in your pocket or purse nicely, and in a pinch you are sure to find somewhere you can borrow or buy a marker.
Cons: You may need to re-apply through the day but it doesn’t come off all that easily. 🙂
Tips: If you Google “how to get Sharpie off of skin” you’ll find lots of great advice!
That has been our experience. We kept a Medic-Alert bracelet on at all times and then chose between the store bought bracelet, SafetyTat or Sharpie Marker when we headed out.
There are some other options that we didn’t know about but I wish we had because I love these ideas!
You simply laminate a family photo and attach it to your child (on a lanyard or pinned in a pocket). You can include any details you wish on the back.
Pros: This is quite inexpensive and a good photo will offer whomever is helping your child a perfect description of what you look like… just remember to update it to reflect new hairstyles or other big changes to appearance.
Cons: You’ll need to find a decent quality lamination if you would like the photo to be durable, especially if you think it may get wet.
Tips: You can laminate photos of other caregivers as well.
Road ID not something we tried but it’s a brand that often comes up when parents talk ID and by all accounts it looks like a great option so I wanted to include it here. You can find them at, http://www.roadid.com/ and they do ship to Canada.
Pros: You can fit a lot of text onto the ID bracelet, for example, “I can understand you but I am non-verbal. Please contact my mother (555) 555-5555.” The bracelets look fairly comfortable and parents report that they are durable as well.
Cons: A child can remove the bracelet (some parents have chosen a shoe tag option to counter this)
Tips: Parents have had some great ideas about what to write where on these bracelets and you can find their great ideas if you search “ROAD ID” on the Apraxia-Kids fb page.
While a liquid band-aid is designed to protect cuts and scrapes, it also does a great job at sealing ink or marker on the skin, making for a water and sweatproof option that is easily removed when the time is right. Available online and in most pharmacies, the liquid dries quickly while letting skin breathe.
Pros: Inexpensive, water and sweatproof, readily available, temporary, and you can conceal the written message under clothing for privacy.
Cons: may sting on application.
Tips: You can add a couple of layers for extra protection, just be sure to let each application dry before adding another.
A quick search on Etsy for a ‘medial ID bracelet’ yields many options and you can also restrict your search to those made in Canada, supporting those closer to home. You will have to work with the designer on your preferred wording, but feedback from others in the apraxia community has been positive.
Pros: highly quality and durable product, made in Canada.
Cons: may be more expensive than other options.
Tips: If you see something you like but isn’t quite right, contact the designer to see if they’d do something custom for you!
Feeling crafty? Head over to your local craft store to pick up a beaded bracelet kit that you can make your own message and customize the colours and design for your child.
Pros: highly custom and unique to your child, they can be involved in making it (which may translate to more buy-in to wear it).
Cons: may be less durable depending on quality you purchase.
Tips: Check Etsy for ideas that you might be able to imitate. Watch for weekly coupons available for craft stores like Michaels. (https://www.michaels.com/on/demandware.store/Sites-MichaelsCanada-Site/en_CA/Home-Show)
There are certainly more ideas out there so I encourage you to try them and if you like them, come back and share in the comments!
Angela Muis started her journey with apraxia when her son, Huxley, was diagnosed with the speech disorder in 2011. It has been a long and hard road but Huxley’s apraxia is now resolved and along the way, Angela found her calling and is currently completing her Honours Diploma in hopes of becoming a SLP-A/CDA.