A special bracelet worn by the autistic child helped the police locate him within minutes after he went missing from his residence.
Parents of autistic children have extra worries about them when it comes to their safety. Some autistic children are unable to communicate effectively with people or navigate unfamiliar and overstimulating environments, leading their parents to take serious safety measures to keep them out of harm's way. Thanks to one parent's wise initiative, a 9-year-old child with autism could safely make it back to his home.
Thanks to a GPS bracelet the young boy was wearing, police officers were able to locate him safely. The Tampa, Florida-based Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office recently provided an update on the youngster on their official Facebook page. "On Sunday, November 26, 2023, #teamHCSO responded to the report of a missing 9-year-old child with autism just before 6 p.m.," the post read.
"With the invaluable assistance of SafetyNet—a program utilizing GPS-equipped bracelets—HCSO's SafetyNet team was able to find the child, hiding behind a building's A/C unit, safe and unharmed," the post continued. "I am incredibly proud of our deputies responsiveness and expertise that were instrumental in this successful recovery operation," said Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister.
"Their dedication to ensuring the safety of our community, especially vulnerable individuals like this child, is truly commendable. SafetyNet has proven to be a lifesaving tool, and I couldn't be more thankful for our strong partnership," Chronister added in a statement. The sheriff's office released body camera footage showing two police officers approaching the rear of a Ruskin residence. The second constable spotted the child off-camera as they approached the rear door of the residence.
“Oh hey, buddy! Here ya go!” an officer said, walking up to the boy who was crouched behind the house’s air conditioning system. The other officer also coaxed the child to come out and after a few moments, the youngster can be seen walking off while holding the hand of one of the officers. According to Fox 13, the wristband is part of a program designed for those with cognitive disorders including autism, dementia or Alzheimer's. When the HCSO SafetyNet team arrived at the house, they were able to find the child's Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) signal quickly, which helped them in their search. The gadget is recommended by officials for families or individuals who might need more help.
Wow that’s super cool— Jamie (@WitchyWoman1717) November 27, 2023
As the parent of an autistic child, BRAVO!!!!— Rob Clark (@RobClark2020) November 27, 2023
"SafetyNet is incredibly easy to register for parents or just caregivers for anyone with any cognitive disability can go on and register this person, and then they're given a GPS bracelet. In this case, this GPS bracelet helped us find this child within 20 minutes," said Jessica Lang, a spokesperson with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. "Our deputies' dedication in this investigation was incredible. They knew there was a missing child with autism. You can imagine that a child might be scared in an unknown neighborhood. And thankfully, this child is found unharmed. Less than a mile away."
In a similar story, a small act of inclusivity is helping an Illinois family feel better about the safety of their 6-year-old son. Ali Harris, the mom of the youngster, is always concerned that her son Kyren might get hit by a car. The young autistic child has an acute fascination with cars. The mother realized that having an "autistic child area" sign erected next to her home would help increase awareness among passing cars and families that frequent the park across the street from their residences.
"I get a group with a woman police officer from South Roxana (where we live) I take their order and give them their cups. And I let the guy paying to know that the tab gets a 10% discount with a service member in his group and thanked her for her service! He then stated he was the chief in south Roxana," Harris wrote on Facebook. "After that, it all just came out like word vomit. 'REALLY! I have a question, I hate to bother you while out for lunch... but I have a son who’s autistic/nonverbal. We live at XXXXX blah blah street right across from the park. I was wondering if it was possible to get one of those street signs for an autistic child area?' He asked more about where I live, what house was mine and jotted our address down. That was that." She revealed that the sign showed up on their street a few days later.
Although Harris is aware that the sign may not help all children with autism, she claims to have noticed slower traffic since the sign appeared. She is also grateful for another outcome for her family where they finally "feel included."