Merriam police program provides families GPS devices to help if child with autism wanders away

Merriam Police Major Darren McLaughlin shows the wristband and watch to help track a person with autism who may wander away.
Merriam Police Major Darren McLaughlin shows the wristband and watch to help track a person with autism who may wander away.

Merriam families who have a member with autism now have a new resource to help keep them safe, thanks to the Merriam Police Department.

The police department this year received grant money to implement a GPS Program for Autistic Children. The department has provided GPS wrist devices to five families and has a few more available. The GPS devices are designed to help parents and guardians be able to monitor family members with autism who might have a tendency to wander away. The police department also has the capability to monitor the devices and react when the person needs to be found. The devices also can be monitored from a smart phone by the family.

“Finding them quickly is the greatest thing that we can do,” said Major Darren McLaughlin of the Merriam Police Department. The persons now using the devices range from five years old to adult. The devices include wrist bands and watches. A Leawood-based company, Precise Innovations, is the provider of the devices.

Jennifer Smith of the Autism Society of the Heartland said Merriam is one of the first cities to be so proactive. “Many of the other cities in the area are going to follow,” she said.

Much of the money in the grant was used to cover the initial cost of monitoring, which the families will eventually take over.

The devices also could be used to monitor a person with dementia.