We all see it on the news from time to time. A child with autism is missing because they’ve wandered off, leaving their loved ones worried sick about where they’ve gone or who could be with them. One family has come up with a way to help address this problem.
Ohio couple Nick and Katie Goergens rushed to volunteer after a boy with nonverbal autism wandered away from his home last year. Just a few weeks later, they learned their own daughter has autism.
The diagnosis, coupled with their experience on the search, led them to start the nonprofit Operation Save the Lost. It gets tracking devices to families with a child on the autism spectrum so they’re less apt to go missing.
Their website explains, “We have a daughter who is non-verbal and has autism; she does not understand the dangers of wandering off. These tragedies have opened our eyes to how quick things can happen. We started questioning whether we are doing everything in our power to prevent this from happening to not only our family, but other families that have loved ones with autism.”
The Goergens say it’s common for children with autism to take off in search of something they’ve found fascinating. Such children are called “runners.” For their own daughter Aubreigh, fixations include telephone poles and cell towers along roads.
Katie says, “Parents on the outside looking in, who don’t deal with this on a personal level, they look at it as: ‘Where was the mom? Where was the dad? Be responsible. How hard is it to keep track of your kid?’ And it’s not that. Things can happen in two seconds.”
Operation Save the Lost aims to make sure parents can keep track of their kids when they take off so quickly. It provides free Jiobit tracking devices to children on the autism spectrum. The devices can be attached to shoes, button holes, and belt loops; are water resistant; and are labeled as “kid-proof” by the company. They’re not just used for kids, either. Families of adults with dementia find them helpful, as well.
The Goergens say the devices are an important tool for children who wander off anywhere, including the woods, by bodies of water, or into traffic. They want more families to have the peace of mind the tracking software provides, regardless of their financial situation.
Their goal is also to normalize autism, saying, “It’s nothing to be ashamed of. I think people go through that process, a grieving process like we did when we started this. It’s a journey. You go through this grieving the child you thought you would have to embracing it and being proud of it.”
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As for Aubreigh, the Goergens say they want her to grow up to be proud of who she is and all of her progress. She’s made some serious strides while she works through occupational, physical, speech, and equestrian therapies. They say she also attends developmental classes and uses PLAY Project.
For more information on the Operation Save the Lost organization, visit their website.Whizzco