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National Autism Awareness Month

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, April 3, 2013

April is National Autism Awareness Month.  Individuals with medical conditions like Alzheimer's, Autism, or Down's Syndrome have a propensity to wander.  As police officers, we are often called to a home or area to assist a caregiver with locating a person who has wandered.  The department recognizes that caregivers of loved ones with these disorders have a huge responsibility.   Below are some measures that a loved one can take to prevent/decrease wandering and steps that can be taken to ensure a quick recovery if the person does leave home.

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  • Make it difficult for your loved one to wander.  Install an alarm if possible.
  • Caregivers can reach out to their neighbors before an incident of wandering occurs and explain the situation.  Examples of  letters that can be given to neighbors can be found on the Project Lifesaver area of our website.
  • Make sure the person has identification on them at all times.
  • Take a full-length photo and head-shot of your loved one.  Store the photos electronically.  If the person goes missing, the photos can be sent to law enforcement quickly.
  • Call 911 immediately if your loved one has wandered so that police can respond.
  • As summer approaches, it is important to emphasize that persons with Autism are often attracted to water sources such as pools, ponds, and lakes, and may gravitate towards bodies of water when they wander.  Drowning is the number one cause of premature death for individuals with Autism.  For caregivers of children with Autism, teaching your child to swim early could absolutely save their life! Also, knowing where bodies of water (lakes, pools, etc.) are in your neighborhood is important.
The police department runs a Project Lifesaver Program to address the problem of wandering.  Eligible individuals with Autism, Alzheimer's Disease, and related disorders are outfitted with a personalized bracelet.  The bracelet emits a unique automatic tracking signal every second, 24 hours a day.   If the participant wanders, loved ones call 911.  Officers who have been trained in the Project Lifesaver System then use radio frequency tracking equipment to locate the participant.  Project Lifesaver officers are also specially trained in the methods necessary to communicate with a person who has these disorders.

Caregivers, community members, and officers can all work together to prevent wandering and ensure that individuals are quickly located if they do wander.  For more information about Project Lifesaver or for assistance in dealing with wandering, please contact Officer Laurie Reyes at 301-840-2788 or via email.

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Release ID: 13-101
Media Contact: mcpnews 
Categories: press-releases