When a person goes missing, time is of the essence, especially when it's a child with autism. What was once used to locate Alzheimer's patients, a tracking device is now giving parents who have an autistic son or daughter some peace of mind.
The Morris family in Albemarle County is getting ready for a trip to the beach. On this vacation the most important item they're taking is probably a tracking device in case seven year old, Jake, goes missing. Jake's mom Stephanie Morris said it gives them more freedom.
"Something would just catch his eye and he would just be gone," Stephanie said.
Jake is autistic and has a tendency to wander away without telling anyone where he's going.
"It's a real comfort to know that it's there, the tracking device with Jake," Stephanie said.
This is part of a nationwide program called Project Lifesaver. Wristbands with a tracking device are typically used to protect Alzheimer's patients but law enforcement agencies have begun using them to protect the autism community. Project Lifesaver sounds an immediate response so authorities can take action, leading them to a lost child usually within 20 minutes.
Lt. Thomas Payne is in the Reserve Division of the Albemarle County Sheriff's Office. He is among a team of volunteers who facilitate Project Lifesaver in the community.
"Right now our client level has more autism children connected to it than we do Alzheimer's patients," Lt. Payne said.
It costs about $270 for the tracking device then about five dollars a month for batteries. If a family can't afford the cost the sheriff's office said that's when donations can make a difference. They're goal is to never turn anyone away.
Jennifer Von Reuter joined the NBC29 news team in June 2009 as a general assignment reporter. Prior to joining NBC29, Jennifer worked as an anchor and reporter for WHAG-TV in Hagerstown, MD. Email/Follow on Twitter/