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Feds To Fund Tracking Devices For Kids With Autism


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The Justice Department will make funding available immediately to provide free electronic tracking devices for kids with autism who are at risk of wandering.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday that his department has existing grant money that can be used for the technology.

Police departments nationwide can begin applying for funding immediately, Holder said. Local law enforcement would then use the money to pay for tracking devices to distribute to families who want them.

Holder made the commitment while testifying before a U.S. Senate panel.

The comments come days after U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said he was introducing legislation that would allocate $10 million to the Justice Department to create a grant program to provide tracking devices to families wishing to monitor their kids with autism and other developmental disabilities due to wandering concerns.

The plan is modeled after an existing federal program that provides tracking devices for those with Alzheimer’s disease.

During the hearing Wednesday, Holder called Schumer’s concern for kids with autism “legitimate.”

“I think that given the nature of the unique issues that kids with autism issues face and given the way in which our nation has responded to adults with Alzheimer’s issues, that they ought to be treated in much the same way,” the attorney general said.

Schumer first floated the idea of funding tracking devices last November in response to the disappearance of Avonte Oquendo, a 14-year-old with autism who went missing from his New York City school and was recently found dead.

About half of individuals with autism are prone to wandering, research suggests. Tracking devices can be worn as a bracelet, attached to a child’s shoe or belt loop or even sewn into clothing. In the event that an individual goes missing, a caregiver can contact the monitoring company for the device to pinpoint the person’s location.

Even with Holder’s commitment, Schumer said he will press forward with his legislation in order to ensure a permanent funding source is established for the program.

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Comments (39 Responses)

  1. Dadvocate says:

    Don’t assume that your local PD will automatically apply for this grant money from the Federal government. Its important for the autism community to reach out to law enforcement/firest response leaders at the local level to bring this issue to their attention. My experience is that law enforcement and first response units “get it” right away and are very cooperative. They believe that training and preparation ahead of a crisis saves lives (and money). While you are at it, please point out to them that it’s critical that their professionals receive specialized autism training (usually part of Crisis Intervention training courses). The tools officers need to use in their interactions with people on the spectrum are often the total OPPOSITE of what their training for interactions with typical people instructs them to do (ex. increase force if uncooperative etc).

  2. Jan Horowitz says:

    Why stop there? Why not implant electronic chips into every child in the hospital when they are born?

  3. Jackie jeffrey says:

    Hello , I saw the post about the tracking device for autistic children , please tell me where I can obtain one for my 11y old son , who wanders outside
    Please and thank you
    Jackie , Malachi Mom

  4. Angela says:

    Will this be for young adults with autism ? Because i have a son that is 27.

  5. Nicole Hellmann says:

    Hi my name is Nicole my son Hunter has autism. Not sure how I apply,for grant on the tracking device. Please e-mail me or call my cell 314-620-5598

  6. Dadvocate says:

    Jackie – You should contact any leading advocacy organization for help: Autism Speaks, The Autism Society, Easter Seals, the ARC etc The biggest program in place nationally is Project Lifesaver, but it may not be up and running where you live. There are other options if its not available where you live. Again, please reach out to a large advocacy organization, any of them should be able to help you.

    While some uniformed folks may object to the concept of tracking devices, for those people with a disability and their families who live with a high risk of elopement, these devices are both potential lifesavers in a crisis situation and an effective, low cost tool for first responders in search and rescue scenarios.

  7. Nancy says:

    I’m sorry Jan Horowitz, but this is far more preferable then getting a call and finding out they your son’s body parts just washed ashore on the beach. Sometimes a solution is not the happiest one but quite frankly the best one in order to protect a child that doesn’t understand the evils and dangers of the world if he/she sets off alone. I would get one for my son in a heartbeat. I never want to deal with what Avonte’s parents had to come to terms with regarding their son’s demise.

  8. carmen says:

    Hello , I saw the post about the tracking device for autistic children , please tell me where I can obtain two for my grandchildren one is 9 years old and the other is 6 year old, both wanders outside and specially when i go to the stores with them , last week an old guy outside the store in Florida of Save a lot was about to take the little girl that she is 6 years old please i need help right way.

  9. Ginger Hendricks says:

    To Dadvocate,

    Autism Speaks, etc. offers these devices at present? Our son is nonverbal and wanders. We have had to take some measures securing our home and one of us has to be glued to him when out in a large public setting.

  10. SuzAnne Jessup says:

    A wonderful idea who’s time has come.

  11. Diane says:

    My son is 19 and has Down syndrome. We’ve been on a first name basis with our local PD because of his outings. We’ve even put an alarm on the house, but he is a smart one and has found ways around most all of our barricades. He even managed to get out of school twice while in high school. One of his elopements got him well into a nearby neighborhood. This could have had a very bad ending. I would love to have a tracking device just to have that much more assurance that he is safe.

  12. LWattley says:

    I think this is a great! In addition, I am really pleased about the writer’s use of “people first” language. Saying “kids with autism” seems so much more positive that other descriptions I have seen.

  13. Shaughnessy says:

    I’ve been thinking of something like this for a long time. My five year old son is autistic and he’s not really aware of danger and he’ll run out in the street or jump off of the top of a bunk bed. I had to begin using a harness on him when he was two years old because he elopes so much. He runs from teachers at school and knows how to open all doors. I can’t wait to get one of these. I’ll breathe easier knowing that he has one of these when he’s away from me.

  14. Linda Autism Mom says:

    My son has autism and we are part of Project Lifesaver. Our local sheriff’s department got us set up with the LoJack tracking device (bracelet) from SafetyNet. They have a customer service number 1-877-434-6384. We have peace of mind now knowing that we have a way to find our son if he wanders off.

  15. Steven Reminick says:

    Its about time. My son is in constant mortal danger. I have bought a trax (not yet in final production) . It is water proof and shock resistant and works indoors and out. Will the govt device do this? Its not just the device but how well it works. Though certainly we are grateful for anything that can be done.

  16. Charmgirls3 says:

    Does anyone know if NC has a program set up already and if so which counties?

  17. Lesli Cattan says:

    The Project Lifesaver program for children with autism and other developmental disabilities who are at risk for wandering currently exists in Westchester County, NY. Contact WJCS at 914-761-0600.

  18. Luanne Greer says:

    I think that the idea of tracking devices for individuals with Autism and other special needs, is a very good one. I am a special education teacher who works with children ages 10-13 who are Autistic and are prone to wandering off. One child in particular is bad about wanting to sneak out and although he has his own shadow, he is so quick he can often slip out of the door before you can catch him. The scary thing is our classroom is located close to the road used not only by parents who drop off and pick up their children every day, but delivery trucks as well. While fortunately, he hasn’t gotten into the road yet, there isn’t any guarantee it won’t happen in the future. He is supposedly also bad about wanting to slip out while at home often when Mom is busy doing something else. If he were to slip off like the student whose remains were recently found, if he had a tracking device on him, the chances of that tragedy repeating itself could be greatly reduced.

  19. Denise says:

    As a professional working with children with autism and the parent of a young man with autism who is nonverbal and did not respond to his name as a child, was a master escape artist and wanderer and who still does not seem to have any awareness of danger, I applaud the concept and funding; it will save lives! I have known too many children with autism who took off; one who was found after 12 hours at 1:00 a.m. with the temperature hovering around 30 degrees and would not have survived much longer, and one who was found drowned in the ocean weeks after running off from a group home. Such a tracking device will save lives and much anguish on the part of families.

  20. Becky says:

    I agree with Jan H. Do not do this to your child. It only gives the government a foot in the door of your child’s life…or death. The deaf and disabled in America were the first to be experimented on by American scientists before widespread extermination was used by the Nazis during the Holocaust in Europe during WWII. Don’t think it can’t happen again.

  21. soricobob says:

    So, the reason the Feds are funding this for autistic kids (and not down syndrone) is…..?

  22. Linda Boucher says:

    SafetyNet by LoJack and Project Lifesaver International both currently have location devices for people with disabilities. If you put these into your search engine you will get their main websites. There you will find a section where you can put your zip code in and it will tell you if it is available in your area. Both services have a fee and I do not believe they have access to the free federal money. If there are agencies in your area that can help with funding, they should be able to put you in touch. I have a 12 year old grandson who wanders and has had a transmitter since he was 3 – it is such a relief knowing we have a way to find him when he wanders.

  23. joann capobianco says:

    can you please tell us where we can get a tracking device? who do we contact?
    My son is 12 and has Autism and has wandered away and Its the scariest feeling. Thank god he is safe now.
    Thank you


  24. Dep. T. Caldwell says:

    Praise, praise, praise, right now my parents and caregivers are using FSS and FSA accounts, funding that they could be using for other medical expenses. Some of “my kids”, on Project Lifesaver, the best program so far, are funded by anonymous donors and the local Fraternal Order of Police and this would take a bit of strain from them. Any testimonials or information needed, please do not hesitate to contact.

    Dep. T. Caldwell
    Senior Programs Director
    Licking Co. Sheriff’s Office
    Newark, OH

  25. Andrea says:

    Where/who do local police departments apply to for this grant money?

  26. Rose Nelson says:

    My son is autistic and runs off a lot, I would feel a little more at ease if he did have the advise.

  27. Deb Rubin says:

    This is such a simple and amazing solution.

  28. Judy Moore says:

    I presented this to my town hall. The chief of Police said the town first lays out the funds then gets refunded which is the opposite of what this article states. My presentation turned into a budget talk. I was not happy. I argued the point and brought this article for all of them. Can I speak to someone to clarify this and get it rolling for my son and I’m advocation for all kids in my area who are wanting this.

  29. Dep. Tim Caldwell says:

    PLI will assist first responder agenciesie; police, fire sheriff EMT etc. to run and manage this program. It is very user friendly and if you run your program efficiently it can pay for it’s self. How many VFWs, Legion Halls and AMVETS do you know of who wouldn’t like to sponsor a fellow vet or surviving spouse with Alzheimer’s or another dementia for Project Lifesaver. How many Masonic Lodges, Knights of Columbus or Pythias wouldn’t sponson some kids with special needs etc.

    Petition your county commissioners or Senior Centers for funding from senior levy dollars, come on folks there are an unnumered amount of clubs civic groups et al that would love to help out with $$$.

  30. tony maronie says:

    Why isn’t it a parental responsibility to provide this? The technology already exists in the private sector. Stop being dependent on government to be a sugar daddy. All this means is more stolen and borrowed money to pay for things that are individual responsibilities.$18.2T in debt and growing, go figure.

  31. Megan Beaver says:

    I am a mother of 4 and i have two with austim and my third son might too. I would Highly be greatfull of where and how to obtain this. It is the scariest feeling when a child of your has gone missing and doesn’t really communicate with the outside world or releize the dangers.. I have been hoping and searching for a device. PLEASE contact me.

  32. Terra Frasz says:

    Hi, I have a son who has rare severe seizure disorder called “Lennox Gaustaut”. Some days he has over 100 seizures. I desperately need a gps devise for him. Please contact me. Thank you

  33. santana says:

    I understand the need for some people but I also think the parents should be responsible for watching their kid sorry but I have been discriminated against and for no reason other than My son follows his routine and they told DCF my son ran into road cuz he was being pulled out of his routine that I was told to follow and now my son is gone out of my care which is crap and I miss him daily and don’t get to Even see him

  34. Lisa says:

    I have a 18yr old autistic child,that i would really be interested getting this for,can you please let me know as to how i can apply for this for him.

  35. Jennifer says:

    soricobob probably because more autistic kids are known for running? You can get a device if you need one

  36. Alethia Holloway says:

    My daughter soon to be 5 years old wonders off and she has down syndrome do she qualify for a bracelet

  37. tonya creed says:

    hi, i am very interested in getting some financial assistance for my son who has autism. I am looking into a device called Angelsense. I have recently ” lost ” my son on the beach and I have never been so scared in my life! And don’t want to ever experience that feeling again. Please let me know who to call in my state of Louisiana. Thank you, Tonya

  38. vicky fuller says:

    My son has autism and I’d like to get one of these devices. He’s non verbal and has to be watched 24/7. This is a great idea.

  39. Margaret steadman says:

    Please pass legislation. My grandson is 12 and on the spectrum. He is starting to talk about going to Georgia. And I am afraid one day he will. He packs his bag and food to leave.

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