Stonington receives award for developing system to locate missing residents with autism

Stonington -- The town has won an award for its system that helps locate people with autism.

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities presented its 2017 General Entry Municipal Excellence Award last week to the town for creating a “Citizens with Autism Safety System.”

The system, which was developed last year by Department of Human Services Director Leanne Theodore and Information Technology Manager Roger Kizer, assists police and emergency services in locating people with autism and offers guidance about interacting with each individual.

The program, which uses a Geographic Information System that contains information about each person with autism, was developed by town employees at virtually no cost to taxpayers. In addition to the award, the town received a check for $1,000 from Halloran Sage, a Hartford law firm.

Family members can supply confidential information about the person, including preferred methods of communication, behaviors, triggers to avoid, sensory issues and calming methods, along with a high-resolution photo, description and emergency numbers.

They also can provide details about places the person is likely to frequent, which are then mapped.

The system also identifies bodies of water, storm drains and pools within a half-mile radius of the person's last known location, because those with autism often are drawn to water. This has resulted in drowning becoming one of the leading causes of death for those with autism.

“We are grateful to CCM for recognizing our work to help and protect citizens on the ‘spectrum,’” said Theodore, “and working with Roger Kizer from the IT Department made it all happen.”

The system is the outgrowth of a training session on autism that former Selectman and current Groton City Police Chief Mike Spellman had in 2015. 

As part of the town GIS system, the autism information is password protected and can only be accessed by authorized users such as police, firefighters and ambulance personnel.




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