Radio tracking technology helps find child with autism who went missing

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A child with autism who went missing in the Twin Cities was quickly found with new radio frequency tracking technology.

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The 10-year-old boy went missing around noon in Roseville Sunday, near Larpentuer Avenue and Dale Street, the city said in a news release.

But he is a registered participant in Project Lifesaver – a nonprofit that provides monitors for people who may wander off, such as children with autism or adults suffering from Alzheimer's.

It comes as a small wrist or ankle device that emits a tracking signal. If someone goes missing, Project Lifesaver is notified by a caregiver and responders can go to the area. The time it takes to find someone averages about 30 minutes, the site says.

On Sunday, responders from Roseville, St. Paul, Maplewood and Little Canada fire departments came to the scene – and the boy was found in about 20 minutes, the Roseville Fire Department said in a Facebook post.

The release says he was safe and reunited with his father.

More on wandering and Project Lifesaver

The use of Project Lifesaver in Sunday's incident comes after a recent agreement between some Ramsey County communities and their fire departments, which the city says "helped lay the foundation" for how authorities will respond to these types of situations.

A search on the Project Lifesaver website shows the service is currently being used in at least 30 communities in Minnesota, including sheriff's offices in every corner of the state and a smattering of police departments.

In 2014 when the Three Rivers Park District began testing the service, Jonah Weinberg, executive director of the Autism Society of Minnesota, told the Star Tribune it was a “wonderful tool” for families.

Autism Speaks, citing a 2012 study, says the danger of children with autism wandering "is common, dangerous and puts tremendous stress on families." The organization offers tips to help prevent such behavior.

The Alzheimer’s Association says three out of every five people with Alzheimer’s (or another form of dementia) will wander – becoming disoriented or lost, largely due to memory and cognitive issues.

They provide a detailed list of tips when caring for someone with Alzheimer’s

Project Lifesaver says 3,109 people have been rescued with no serious injuries or fatalities during the past 17 years.

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