Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Review - FiLIP - Watch, Phone, and Tracking Divice

I have been waiting a while to write this review. I wanted to make sure the review was as accurate as possible. Based on our lack of success previously, I wanted to make sure that I actually thought that this product would work. For our previous failure you can read my review of AngleSense (I think it is a great product, but it did not work for my high functioning daughter).

I looked at a lot of websites before purchasing another product. I talked with my daughter through it all also. The reality is that she was perfectly capable of destroying anything that I purchased - so I might as well not bother if she is going to do another toilet flush.


It is a PHONE!

When I came across the FiLIP phone I was ecstatic. My first thought is that this is one product that I can sell to my daughter. She had a cell phone, but at ten she often left it in her backpack, and then complained because she did not have it when she needed to call me. My daughter has random bits of separation anxiety that seems to come and goes. A cell phone has been a way we have been dealing with that for a while now.
It also had the parental controls that I had on her other cell phone. If anything this phone is even more locked down. You can choose up to five numbers that can call the phone, and that the phone can also call back. Only those numbers have access - no one can slip through.
The names are stored in the phone. The child can select the name they want to call and it dials. It took my daughter all of four seconds to figure out the two buttons and what they did.
The phone only works on speaker phone. Everyone around can hear the conversation. The volume is not overly loud, so if we are in public it is not concerning. It is great if your daughter calls you because the bus showed up in front of the house 30 minutes early, and you just left work. The bus driver can hear you as you explain where you are and how soon you will be there (yep that happened this week).
I read about complains in hearing the child speak. I do not have any complaints. As long as she holds the watch up near her mouth I hear her just fine. We have tested it (a lot) with grandma (who has problems hearing everyone) and it worked just fine - so it passed with flying colors. 

It is a WATCH!

About this same time my daughter was insistent about wearing a watch. If your child hates watches. . . this may not work. Ultimately it is a watch.
No one needs to know that this is a cell phone. My daughter wears it to school with zero problems. That being said the teachers probably found out it was a cell phone is less then 30 seconds, knew it was to replace the device she flushed down the toilet at school (ie - if she runs at school this will help them also), and she is currently not in a mainstream classroom. Still, it really would not be hard for this to pass as just a watch.
The clock face is really cool. There are different options for displaying the time. You have your traditional number format, and you have the time written out in words. My daughter prefers the words. Her watch will say Nine Seventeen instead of 9:17. If there are other displays I never see them. My daughter keeps it on the words consistently now.
The watch is big. Some people may not like this. I love it. It makes it easy to find when she puts it down. She takes it off all the time - she does everything - and fidgets with it. Sometimes it just put down, sometimes it gets put back on. I developed a rule before she got it - she had to have it on anytime she is out of the house. She took it off a lot at first. She kept it off for most of the time at therapy at first. Now it is on almost all the time. She even forgets to take it off for Taekwondo class - so if she can get used to it. . . besides big is in - and I really like that it is hard to loose.
If you do loose it - you can also call it - BONUS!

You can send MESSAGES!

L currently has therapy three times a week. It is a group program. Most of the time I tag team drop off and pick up with Grandma (family is great). When I arrive to pick her up I open my app and text her that I am there. She gets a simple notification that tells her to look at her phone.
Text messaging is one way. At first this drove L nuts - she was used to using her phone to text me. Now she just calls me back if she needs to. Adding a way for the watch to text back would be pretty impractical with the design. Besides, L's text messages were always interesting anyway, I prefer a phone call.
The phone only has one option for services. It goes through AT&T. We are a Sprint family so it is the only phone on a different network, but I am pretty ok with it. The service is only ten dollars a month and includes unlimited calling and unlimited data. The truth is that this phone is not made for your child to call you a ton, and it really does not eat up data since that is only used for the GPS. However, it is nice not having to worry about it at all.


Will it HELP?

FiLIP uses GPS to track your child. My daughter does not know this. She thinks it is just a phone - and it is, but it does more. with the FiLIP app you can set the frequency of location updates. The most frequent update period is 15 minutes. This is what I have L's watch set to. In addition you can do a manual refresh in the app when you are looking at the map. There is also an option to do a flash refresh, where it refreshes every three minutes for 15 minutes.
Ultimately, the GPS is the one thing that I could see being improved on. I would love a five minute automatic update - but I think it would kill the battery of the phone, so they do not offer it. If L runs I would not get very detailed information of where she is - I would get general location. While I do see this as a downside, it is not a deal killer in my opinion. This device has enough other options that I still feel that it is keeping my daughter safe.
The bottom line is my daughter wears this device. She would not wear a tracking device that would give more minute GPS details.

Safe Zones
You can set up to five Safe Zone's. When the GPS updates that the watch has left or entered one of these zones you will get a push notification through the app. The notification will only come when the GPS refreshes. So, the notification could be delayed by 15 minutes (or more if you have it delayed more). This has not been a problem with me at all. Just now I got a notification that L has left school, it was probably delayed by about ten minutes, but now I know she is on her bus (I can see where she is on the map to make sure she is on her bus, and not running from the school). The biggest downside about Safe Zones is there is a limit of five. I mean really? School, Home, Church, Therapy, Grandma's House - boom there is five, and I didn't even get to add in our Taekwondo Dojo. I wonder why they have it limited.

Emergency Calling
This is hands down my favorite feature - and is why I am ok with the not perfect GPS ability of the phone. By holding down the red button for five seconds (L has NEVER accidentally dialed this - but I did once) the phone will automatically contact the primary person on the watch. If the primary person does not pick up it goes down the list of contacts ONLY if they are selected for emergency phone calls in the app. So you can add in that you child can contact their best friend on their phone - but not have their best friend be called in case of an emergency.

When the phone calls for an emergency it will still show that your child is calling, however before it connects a computer voice lets you know that it is an emergency call. The phone will keep dialing until it connects to someone. The phone will stay connected until the adult's phone (and only the adult's phone) disconnects. My daughter cannot do an emergency call and then hang up on me!

Here is the best part. . . I can go into the app on my phone and make her phone do an emergency call.

Yes, I can make her phone connect to mine, and she can not hang up on me. She can throw her phone into a dumpster and run away. . . so it is not fool proof (and no that one has not happened). The bottom line is she likes her phone and wants to keep it. But, if she runs, I can make her phone call mine and I can listen into where she is. If I think she can be reasonable (since she is running we will go with not happening) I can also attempt to talk to her.

Battery Life
I have read horrible reviews about the battery life. Since this is a device that uses GPS, the life of the battery is dependent upon the refreshing of the GPS. We charge the phone every night. I give it to L to put on before she is even dressed. She wares it until about eight at night. Her watch is set to update ever 15 minutes. I typically do between five to ten manual updates a day. In addition she calls me from 5-7 minutes three or four times a week. When we get home at night the battery is low, but it is not dead. It makes it through everything that we needed it to.

I have read a tip that if you go into the app and turn off the phone that it will make sure that the phone is completely charged. I have updates disabled after 7, so it does not continue to update at night (she is not wearing it anyway, and thankfully with her meds she sleeps at night). I do not have a problem with it charging completely before morning, and doing what I need it to do the next day.

Customer Service
I have heard complaints about the FiLIP customer Service. We have had the phone for several months now. During this time the phone stopped sending notifications out. I sent a message to customer service through my app. It took several days before they responded, they waited until after they had fixed the problem to respond. They did fix the problem also. I started to receive notifications, and then about 12 hours later I received a reply from customer service. Unfortunately the update affected the phone so that it didn't connect to service. The watch was dying about noon everyday, and the GPS never updated. I replied back to my first email chain, and the problem was fixed within 24 hours. I received a reply about 72 hours later.

The communication is not quick. However, the response time is. I personally care more about response time. If I am going to invest in this product I want it to work. Emails back to me saying they are going to fix it is not as important as them actually fixing it. However, I could see that this could be a downside for other people - so I did want to include the feedback.

Overall I really love this product. I am glad that I invested in it. I hope that they expand on the product to make it more marketable to teenagers. It will not last with my daughter beyond two years, and I could totally see a teenage market for this product. For now I am just glad it is here to help me make it through the next two years.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Dating with Special Needs Kids: Is it Worth it?

Some months back I began dating someone. He lived a couple hours drive away and did not have the same days off as I did. It really worked out perfectly. I would take a day off work and we would spend all day together before I went to pick up the kids. It got serious. I fell in love.

I was upfront about my children from the beginning. When I first met him we were just friends talking. I had told him about the autism, and about some of my youngest daughter's struggles before we ever entered into a relationship.

I guess the truth is that you can never prep someone for what we go through everyday as a parent of special needs children. I forget that something that I do each and every day is weird to someone else.

When he asked to meet my kids I explained to him how big of a deal that was. I was extremely hesitant. I tried to let him know that it was not because of him, but because once I introduce someone to my daughter's life she expects that person to stay around. It is tricky with any kids. It is trickier with special needs kids. He insisted that this is what he wanted.

We met at a park. It was familiar territory for my kids and they played like they normally would.

I had made a picnic lunch.

They kicked around a soccer ball, played twister, and ran around crazy. Normal kid stuff.

At one point L had a mini meltdown about having to share my attention. It lasted less then ten minutes and did not involve screaming, kicking, or running. By my standards the day was a success.

He was nervous. Who wouldn't be? I thought everything was good beyond him being nervous.

The truth is that I do not read people well.

We texted when he went home (calling with kids around does not work out well). He brushed me off the next day. I let him. I figured he just needed time to process. A few days later he told me everything was fine. I find it ironic that that was the last time he communicated with me.

I haven't heard from him in months.

I learned that you can never truly have someone understand your everyday normal until they see it. I also learned that I would much rather have someone tell me they were done rather then just walk away. It is a bit cowardly in my opinion.

The truth is that I do not blame him for walking away. There are days that I wish I could do the same. I understand and respect his decision. The last thing I would want is someone around who couldn't handle or appreciate my world. I am sad that he could not even say goodbye.

If he couldn't handle a mini meltdown at the park there is no way he would have survived the epic chaos that happened since then. The meltdowns that resulted in L changing schools, loosing her afterschool care, loosing our apartment, and a five day ER stay because no one would admit her to inpatient care.

A large part of me knows all of this would have happened anyway. I mean it happened before, so it happening again is not a big surprise. We were leading up to it anyway. Yet, I feel guilty that letting her met this guy, someone she saw as a future dad (not that I ever put it that way) and wonder if having him walk so easily out of her life was the trigger for everything that happened after.

So how do we balance it? Do we just not date? Do we date with no possibility of it moving forward? Or do we move on hoping that eventually we will find a person that will understand our everyday crazy and hope that we do not screw our kids up too much in the process.

I suppose I should note that I have been divorced for over five years now. During that time I have dated a little, but not a lot by anyone's standards. During that time this is the only time I have introduced my children to someone.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Is Autism Spectrum Disorder Really More Prevalent in Males?

The current estimates of male to female diagnosis rates for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is 5.5 (Dworzynski, Ronald, Bolton, & Happe, 2012). This means that for every five and a half males who are diagnosed with an ASD one female is diagnosed. It has been estimated that rates are closer to 2.5 to 2.2 (Dworzynski et al, 2012; Hill, 2009), which would mean that only half of females with an ASD are being diagnosed.

Russell, Steer, and Golding (2011) found that if both males and females presented with the same symptomology of ASD males were significantly more likely to receive a diagnosis. This effect was found for individuals with classic autism symptoms as well as higher functioning autism symptoms, which clearly shows gender bias in diagnosing females with an ASD regardless of where they are on the spectrum. This bias may even occur before the diagnosis process, with females being referred for diagnosis less than males (Russell et al, 2011).

While the bias may occur across the entire spectrum, one area at higher risk is girls who have an average or above average IQ score (Kopp, Kelly, & Gillberg, 2010). It is interesting that the diagnosis rates of Asperger's syndrome, when looking at both genders together, is approximately a third lower then classical autism (Fombonne, 2004). While it is possible that Asperger's syndrome does occur less frequently in the general population, it is also possible that individuals with Asperger's syndrome, regardless of gender, are being missed in the diagnosis process. Additionally, the decrees in prevalence rates could be significantly impacted by females with higher functioning and average or above IQ scores who qualify for an ASD diagnosis, but do not receive an appropriate diagnosis (Kopp et al, 2010).

One possible reason for the low diagnosis rates of females on the autism spectrum is a different presentation of ASD symptoms across genders (Hill, 2009). This can be seen specifically in the presentation of special interests. Males with Asperger's syndrome tend to hyper focus on a specific topic, which may be seen as extremely unusual such as train schedules or vacuum cleaners. Females with Asperger's syndrome tend to escape into fiction or into imaginary worlds inside their head (Hill, 2009).

Autism spectrum disorder is still thought to be more common in males than in females (Dworzynski et al, 2012). However, the large disparity between genders is being though to be less of a biological basis and more of a barrio for females in receiving a diagnosis (Kopp et al. 2010). It is concerning that that it takes females an average of five years, after first seeking help, to be appropriately diagnosed with ASD (Kopp et al, 2010). That would mean that parents who have become concerned enough to seek help for their ten year old daughter, while in fourth grade, would not receive an appropriate ASD diagnosis for her until she was entering high school. More needs to be done to help professionals identify girls who are on the autism spectrum, and to do so in a timely manner.


Dworzynski, K., Ronald, A., Bolton, P., & Happe, F. (2012). How different are girls and boys above and below the diagnostic threshold for autism spectrum disorders? Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 51(8), 788-797.

Fombonne, E. (2009). Epidemiology of Pervasive Developmental Disorders. Pediatric Research, 65(6), 591-598.

Hill, A. (2009). Doctors are 'failing to spot asperger's in girls'. London, UK: The Guardian, April 11, 2009.

Koop, S., Kelly, K. B., & Gillberg, C. (2010). Girls with social and/or attention deficits: A descriptive study of 100 clinic attenders. Journal of Attention Disorders, 14(2), 167-181.

Russell, G., Steer, C., & Golding, J. (2011). Social and demographic factors that influence the diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorders. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol, 46, 1283-1293.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Review of AngelSense GPS Tracking Device

I first heard about the AngelSense GPS Tracking Device from the blog Autism Daddy. At the time L was just released from the ER, she was completely unstable, but they could not find her a bed in an inpatient hospital.

L was running more then three times a week. I was loosing track of her for more then 30 minutes at a time. She was suicidal and prone to risky behaviors - and she was running on the side of busy roads (in SoCal try and not find a busy road!).

I needed to try something and the AngelSense device looked perfect.

This is where I will interrupt my review to say that I was looking at this device for a gifted child with Aspergers who's IQ score for visual spatial ability is in the 99th percentile for her age. I say this because she is a kid who can figure out things that should not be figured out. My review is based on this.

If you are looking at this device for a child who is a bit more compliant then I would recommend that you check out the review by Autism Daddy - it will probably be more relevant (of course you can also finish reading mine).

The device website is great. You can chat with a customer service representative, all of which are autistic parents who are working from home. My first area of concern was that the device was secure. I was instructed that the device would securely attach to the inside of a pocket. I figured that with thirty days to try the device I would let L test it out. If she could detach it then I would return it - no loss on my part (all good intentions right?).

The interaction for the device is pretty great. It is a website that can be saved like an app on your mobile device - or activated directly from the website. You can call the device to hear where your child is, and you can receive updates when your child leaves or enters a location. I loved knowing that L left her Grandma's house, saw the bus schedule, and saw that she made it to school. The information was text to my phone and I did not have to worry.
About nine in the morning I decided to see how the dial feature worked. It didn't. I checked into the device and found that the signal could no longer be located. I honestly thought that maybe the signal was blocked by the school building.
No such luck. Less then four hours after attaching the device to the inside of my daughter's pocket she ripped it out and flushed it down the toilet. The device is not waterproof - at all!
It was extremely easy for her to detach the device. The tracker is put in a cloth case.

On both sides of the case their are little pins that go through the device and secure it to the pocket.
The pins themselves are only detached by a strong powerful magnet. It is pretty impressive.
What is not impressive is that the cloth itself is venerable. If you attach it to the inside of the pocket then the cloth is easy to rip - L is 10 and she apparently ripped it out with her bare hands without any problem. If you attach it to the outside material of the pocket then you can see the metal pins. It also could be cut out pretty easy, and depending on the material of the outside of the pants, it also could be ripped out. The case itself is cloth, so even if the pins stay to the clothes, the device's pouch could pretty easily be damaged.
L complained that she felt self conscious of having the device on her - which is why she flushed it down the toilet. However, she ripped it off because it was causing sensory problems.
With no device to return I paid the company a hundred dollars and they cancelled my service. The customer service was nice, and I think that AngelSense can do a lot of good for a lot of people. I wish I could write a raving review - I really want to. It would be a lie. For higher functioning children this device will, for the most part, be a waste of money. My main concern for children who are more compliant, and would not think of ripping the device out of their pocket, is that it may cause sensory overload.
The interaction with the device is great.
The updates from the device is great.
The security of the device on the person is severely flawed.
The durability of the device is almost non existent - it lasted less then four hours for us.
There is a concern of the device causing sensory issues. This is not a problem if the device is placed in a backpack - but what child takes their backpack when they wonder or run????
The company is great from my experience. I think the line could expand to something that would be more usable for other families.
L destroyed the device at the beginning of the school day. At the end of the day she ran. Thankfully her new school is better equipped at handling the running and she was ok. I, however, was still on the lookout for something that would better help us.