GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The Department of Justice will now cover the cost of GPS tracking devices for children with autism.
Parents with Autism Unbound in Greensboro say tracking devices could potentially save lives, because children with the disorder are four times more likely to wander away from caregivers.
“It's absolutely one of the most frightening things I could ever think about experiencing,” said Krista Ketner, director of Autism Unbound.
Ketner’s 17-year-old son, Michael, is one of 1,000 children affected by autism in the Guilford County Schools system. She says Michael has wandered away from home once before.
The grant program will use existing federal funds to cover devices worn as wristwatches, anklets, or clipped onto belt loops and shoelaces through law enforcement agencies and organizations. It will also cover training for parents, schools and local law enforcement.
The program is something Chris Omohundro says his 8-year-old daughter, Ellie, would benefit from.
“She's pretty fast and she can cover a lot of ground pretty quickly, so my concern is that she could get into harm`s way pretty quickly. It's a terrifying thought you know, said Omohundro.
After a couple close calls, Omohundro took matters into his own hands. The family adopted a service dog, named Deja Vu, that is trained to track Ellie if she wanders away again.
Having Deja Vu has given Omohundro peace of mind, which is something GPS devices will do for families like his.
“It's not going to be fool proof. It still requires everyone to be focused on where the child is at all times, but in the event that they slip out, it's an added layer of protection,” said Omohundro.