Stonington develops system for missing people with autism

Wilcox says those with autism often remember how to get to places they like

STONINGTON, Conn. (WTNH) — When an autistic person goes missing it can be dangerous for that person and for first responders.

Stonington has developed a first of its kind system which could help locate the missing person more quickly and help police better handle the person who has special needs.

The town’s information technology director Roger Kizer developed the new Citizen’s with Autism Safety System using Stonington’s existing Geographic Information System.

A blue puzzle piece indicates where a person with autism lives on the GIS map which also shows nearby landmarks and hazards.

“We have a layer that tells us where all the swimming pools are,” explains Kizer. “Where all the lakes are, streams, any water features.”

And that’s important because people on the spectrum are often drawn to water where they could be hurt or worse.

This system combines mapping information with personal information like a photo and the person’s likes, and dislikes.

“Things that would be able to calm them,” says Kizer. “Things that they don’t like things that are triggers for this person.”

Crystal Wilcox’s son Billy has autism and she says when police were called to her home after he threw a fit outside their house the fast approaching police car was a trigger.

“You might as well have thrown gasoline on a fire because he saw that and he was going to jail,” says Wilcox. “That’s what he thought and he started freaking.”

Emotional stress which may have been avoided if this info was available to dispatchers.

“A system like this will provide an element of officer safety as well as safety for the person we’re trying to help,” says Stonington police Capt Todd Olson.

First responders just need an internet connection on their devices to have the technology which could help them find the missing autistic person sooner and more safely.

Wilcox says those with autism often remember how to get to places they like.

“That’s great but it’s three o’clock in the morning and you got out of the house,” says Wilcox. “So this is an absolute god send.”

Parents don’t have to be concerned their private information will be made public. This system is password protected and the information is only available to first responders.

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