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Autism Speaks Provides Grant to Project Lifesaver International

Funding will support wearable locating technology and training for families and first responders
January 12, 2015

In a 2012 study by the Interactive Autism Network, funded in part by Autism Speaks, 49 percent of the more than 1,200 respondents reported that their loved one with autism had wandered from safety, and more than half of those children had gone missing as a result. Tragically, wandering-related injuries and deaths happen with alarming frequency among individuals with autism.

For our families living with autism, a multi-faceted approach to safety is best, with steps taken to prevent and respond to wandering emergencies, including efforts by both families and local first responders to work together on an ongoing basis. Families of people with autism prone to wandering and elopement may consider adding personal locating devices as a part of their comprehensive approach to safety.  

As part of Autism Speaks’ efforts to ensure the safety of the autism community, the organization has awarded $98,000 to Project Lifesaver International.  Project Lifesaver serves approximately 18,000 individuals with autism who wear small personal transmitters that emit an individualized locating signal. If an enrolled person with autism wanders from safety, the caregiver notifies their local Project Lifesaver agency and a trained emergency team responds in the wanderer’s area.

“Wandering-related incidents and tragedies are far too common among people with autism,” said Lisa Goring, Autism Speaks executive vice president of programs and services. “Autism Speaks is committed to keeping those in the autism community safe from harm. We know based on the program’s tremendous work to date that this funding for Project Lifesaver will have a significant impact by educating first responders and families and providing individuals with autism with locating devices.”

The Project Lifesaver program is more than wearable locating technology. Certified Project Lifesaver first responders are given the necessary tools to respond to safety situations involving children and adults with autism. The program trains first responders to understand the behaviors of individuals with autism so they are able to interact with this growing population in an effective and successful manner. Project Lifesaver also includes instruction for families and caregivers on the maintenance of their child’s locating technology and reporting protocol when their loved one is missing.

Autism Speaks’ grant to Project Lifesaver will add another layer of steps toward preventing and responding to wandering incidents by increasing the capacity of Project Lifesaver to enroll and protect people with autism. The Autism Speaks grant will provide Project Lifesaver with funds to provide over 900 people with autism with access to locating technology and expand coverage areas by establishing new Project Lifesavers agencies in additional communities. 

Project Lifesaver’s impact on the autism community is apparent in recent interactions between first responders and enrolled community members with autism, highlighted by the story of a PLI officer who visits a seven-year-old boy with autism in Minnesota each month to change the battery on his bracelet, but more importantly to develop a bond with him that could one day keep him out of harm’s way. Or the story of a PLI team that followed his device’s signal to safely locate an 11-year-old boy with autism in minutes who had wandered from home.

All inquiries concerning enrollment in PLI or agencies wishing to be considered for the grant should be directed to Project Lifesaver International:  
Chief Tommy Carter
757-546-5502
tcarter@projectlifesaver.org

Inquiries for the “PAL” Protect and Locate devices should contact:
Crystal Gonzalez
PAL Program Coordinator
772-446-1275
cgonzalez@projectlifesaver.org

To search for your local Project Life Saver Agency, click here. Please note, PLI requires documentation of diagnosis and wandering risk for enrollment.

You can find additional Autism Speaks resources for families and first responders to help prevent wandering here. Visit this page to report an active case of wandering.

If you are seeking additional safety information or resources, the Autism Response Team is happy to help! Call us at 888-288-4762 (en Español 888-772-9050) or email us at familyservices@autismspeaks.org!

Autism Speaks does not provide medical or legal advice or services.  Rather, Autism Speaks provides general information about autism as a service to the community.  The information provided on this site is not a recommendation, referral or endorsement of any resource, therapeutic method, or service provider and does not replace the advice of medical, legal or educational professionals.  Autism Speaks has not validated and is not responsible for any information or services provided by third parties.  You are urged to use independent judgment and request references when considering any resource associated with the provision of services related to autism.