Dunedin twins Elijah and Isaiah Hakai (5) are busy, clever and very keen to get out and explore.
The twins, who have autism, ADHD and anxiety, are experts at devising ways to escape from the fenced yards at home and school, as well as from other public spaces.
So it is a great relief and peace of mind for their parents Luisa Hakai and Mel McCarthy that the boys wear aqua-blue WandaTrak pendants around their necks.
“Knowing that the boys can be found quickly if they do go missing is very reassuring,” Ms Hakai said.
Administered by Dunedin LandSAR volunteer Kay Raw, the WandaTrak system is used to help locate people of all ages with cognitive impairment when they go missing.
The system employs small radio frequency transmitters – in this case the boys’ pendants, which can be activated and the signal picked up by police and search and rescue volunteers using a mobile receiver.
“They are another very useful tool in the toolbox, when you are out searching for someone who may have become confused and lost,” Ms Raw said.
Ms Hakai said Elijah and Isaiah were athletic and clever boys, who were good at building, and were able to find “ingenious ways to escape”.
“They can create ways of escaping that you wouldn’t think possible,” she said.
Sometimes the boys were heading for favourite places, such as toy stores, but at other times the urge to escape could be prompted by being overwhelmed by anxiety.
“Their impulsiveness takes over and, once they are out, they can be unaware of dangers like traffic.
“They can also be attracted to dangerous places, like train tracks or high buildings.”
So far, the twins have always been located quickly when they have gone missing, but having the WandaTrak system as a back-up helps their parents to breathe more easily.
This year, Elijah and Isaiah attend fully-fenced Musselburgh School, along with their big brother Milan Hakai (6), who looks out for them.
“He’s a very good big brother, and he worries about them,” Ms Hakai said.
With the WandaTrak pendants and additional trackers sewn into their uniforms, their parents have been able to set up a electronic “perimeter” to help locate the boys.
brilliant since the boys started there this year,” she said.
In addition to helping with tracking, the aqua-blue WandaTrak pendants are also a good visual indication for the public that all may not be well with the boys.
“And as they are determined to go somewhere when they escape, they don’t look distressed, so it can be hard for people to tell,” Ms Hakai said.
However, on one occasion, a road worker encountered Isaiah after an escape, noticed the pendant, and called police.
Ms Raw said this was an important extra benefit of the pendants.
“If people encounter someone wearing one, who is wandering down the street alone, it is a good idea to call someone.”
Dunedin has about 15 of the WandaTrak devices employed, but a recent boost in national funding means an further 12 have been allocated to Dunedin.
Lodge St Patrick has also donated $600, covering the cost of a further two devices.
Ms Raw said parents like Luisa Hakai and Mel McCarthy were doing “an amazing job”.
“I take my hat off to them, I really do.
“So anything we can do to help, such as providing them with these pendants, is well worthwhile.”