AVON, Ind. (WISH) — Emergency responders from fire to police are hoping to raise awareness about a program that could help families of children and adults with autism and other cognitive disorders.
This comes just days after the tragic death of 8-year-old Shalom Lawson in Brownsburg. Police said he was autistic and drawn to water. He was found dead in a retention pond over the weekend.
Parents and caregivers attended an informational meeting at the Washington Township Avon Fire Department on Monday night to learn more about Project Lifesaver in Hendricks County.
The program provides free tracking equipment for families with children and adults, who may have a tendency to wander off due to autism, Down syndrome, Alzheimer’s or dementia.
“Project Lifesaver is just one more tool to kind of give the family that peace of mind,” said Karen Hendershot, coordinator of Project Lifesaver Hendricks County.
Hendershot stood before a group of about a dozen people talking about Project Lifesaver and demonstrating how the device works.
“What the client would wear is a transmitter on their wrist or their ankle, and it can be worn 24/7, even in the water,” she explained.
Hendershot said the device can help reduce the time to locate the loved one.
“In the event, if they were to go missing, the caregiver would call 911,” she explained. “The first responders have receivers that they can tune the unique frequency of the transmitter that the client is wearing.”
Hendershot explained within a one-mile radius, emergency responders can pick up the signal.
“Yes, it can lead us to the direct location of where they are, but we don’t have the coordinates and things. What we’re listening for is the chirping sound,” she said. “The further away that we are, the weaker the signal is, and so the closer that we get, it gets strong and louder.”
Dianne Zirnheld attended the meeting. She said her husband is 64 years old and was diagnosed with a progressive form of dementia.
“I’m very worried about him getting lost. He’s gotten lost several times. We’ve always been able to locate him,” she said, “But with the Project Lifesaver, it would be such a burden off my mind to know that we can locate him quickly.”
Others, like Shanuna Lipscomb, said her 3-year-old son is autistic.
“I’m so fearful that something like this could happen to my little boy. He’s starting to wander already; he’s 3 years old,” she said.
Lipscomb said she started a campaign hoping to work with lawmakers and people in the community to make the device available to parents at the time of diagnosis.
“What can we do as a community to not only just make people aware of this, but get this device in the hands of parents who have children who are autistic?” she said.
Hendershot said the device has a 100 percent chance of success rate. The tracking equipment is free if you live in Hendricks County. If you would like to enroll in the program please call 317-272-2155.
Click here to learn more about Project Lifesaver on the national level.