Home system affords independence, sense of security to Rumson family


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The lives of one single mother and her “three musketeers” have become much easier.

Jennifer O’Dea of Rumson won a prize from a national competition you cannot place a price on: peace of mind.

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O’Dea’s children – 6-year-old twin boys Reid and Graham, and her 4-year-old daughter Anika – were awarded a free system from Vivint Smart Home as part of the company’s national giveaway during Autism Awareness Month in April.

Vivint Smart Home provides complete home systems that can be customized with smart locks, lights, cameras, thermostats, garage door controls and a variety of sensors to help families control and monitor activity in their homes, according to Vivint Gives Back Director Holly Mero-Bench.

According to O’Dea, all of her children have been diagnosed with mental and/or physical disorders, and require around-the-clock supervision. She said Reid has been diagnosed with autism, Graham is being evaluated for autism spectrum disorder and Anika was born with a connective tissue disorder. 

O’Dea said her days consist of therapy visits.

“Our life revolves around being as typical as a family as we can,” O’Dea said.

In April, Vivint held a national giveaway to help families of children living with special needs ensure the safety of their children while they are at home.

Dubbed as an intricate surveillance system fit for the modern era, the series of cameras capture footage from various rooms of an individual’s home. Parents can then monitor their children in real time on their mobile devices, O’Dea said. 

According to Vivint Smart Home officials, one in 68 children in the United States has been identified with autism spectrum disorder. Studies show nearly half of children with the diagnosis attempt to wander from a safe, supervised place, which can be dangerous.

In her video submission to Vivint, O’Dea said she is persistent when it comes to monitoring Reed’s safety, in particular. She said Reid is prone to moments of impulsive spontaneity. The 6-year-old also displays an overwhelming sense of curiosity – a sudden interest that can lead to Reid leaving his house without his mother’s permission or wandering from his mother’s view in public vicinities.

“I worry about Reid’s safety all day and all night. He is exceptionally bright and loves to learn about the world. And while this is a gift, it is also a challenge as a single mom. Reid is a wanderer,” O’Dea said.

O’Dea said Reid once ran out of a Target store because he became fearful of the loud noises coming from the hand dryers being used in the public restroom. She said her two other children were looked after by a stranger in the bathroom, who also happened to be a mother, while she searched for Reid.

Because O’Dea needs to keep two eyes on three children, the single mom has been seeking help for what she calls a challenging feat – monitoring her three children, who have individual medical needs, 24 hours a day.

“I try and be super mom, but I need your super help,” she said in her YouTube submission.

O’Dea said she entered the contest earlier this year on a whim, attempting to test her luck in a competition that could ensure an increase in her children’s independence. She said around-the-clock surveillance of the children’s activity could appease the way the family of four conducts their daily life.

“I live with chronic, high stress. I’m used to it. It’s part of our daily routine.”

Smart home systems alert parents when children attempt to wander from safety. By monitoring key exit and entry points with smart sensors and cameras, smart home technology provides a greater capacity to keep their children in a supervised environment, according to company officials.

Team members from Vivint installed cameras, a loudspeaker, motion sensors on doors and windows, and smart locks on the doors of O’Dea’s residence. The surveillance cameras allow O’Dea to monitor her children’s activity when they are playing in different rooms. When a door or window is opened, an alert is made on the home’s loudspeaker. O’Dea said she can monitor her children’s home activity on her cell phone in real time.

“Vivint said to me, ‘This could make your life easier.’ It was like an angel from the sky. … I now have an extra set of eyes,” she said.

O’Dea said daily bathing rituals used to be exceptionally difficult in her household. Since the smart home system has been installed, she said she is able to monitor individual bath times, while she simultaneously watches her other two children who are not present in the room at that time.

O’Dea noted another recent “episode” Reid had while exiting their family’s vehicle in the driveway of their home. She said Reid needed to be carried to the front door of the house and did not have an extra hand to rummage for her house keys in her pocketbook.

Fortunately, the task was appeased by her smart touchpad lock system. After typing in the code she set to allow entry into her home, she was granted access without putting mother mode on pause.

Although the smart home system was just installed, O’Dea said her life has shown immediate improvement. 

“Vivint genuinely cares. They got it. There are not as many supports for parents as there are for children. The parents are under such chronic stress that this is a holistic solution for the everyday challenges that we face raising children with autism,” she said.

In total, the personalized smart home system values $5,499, according to Vivint Smart Home Public Relations Representative Kristen Linsmeier.

O’Dea said although her children’s safety is her optimal concern, she is excited about the newfound independence her children have been granted. She said the independence will encourage their developmental growth.

Contact Kelly Giuliano at kgiuliano@newspapermediagroup.com.

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