National Autism Association Launches New Safety Program; Provides Immediate Project Lifesaver Funding to Counties Nationwide

Wednesday, July 23, 2008 General News
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NIXA, Mo., July 22 The National Autism Association (NAA) announced today the launch of a new program aimed at providing families and counties nationwide with safety tools for children with autism. The FOUND Program is the organization's third direct-assistance program, which will immediately fund $54,400.00 to provide at least eight counties with Project Lifesaver equipment and tracking watches.

Project Lifesaver is a nationwide tracking program established to locate and rescue missing persons, namely those with cognitive impairments and developmental disabilities. Since 1999, 1709 missing persons have been found through Project Lifesaver. In the past six weeks, ten missing persons with autism have been rescued. "It's a brilliant program with a 100% recovery rate," says NAA Executive Director Rita Shreffler. "Some Sheriff's offices simply do not have the funding and we hope our new program will eventually fund every county in the nation with this lifesaving equipment."

Shreffler noted that the funding to launch the program came unexpectedly from a website called "Pixie's Train Ride." The site has raised over $53,000 for NAA. Phyllis Cahoon, creator of the site and grandparent of a child with autism stated, "I'm thrilled that the generous contributions from visitors to my website will help protect the lives of children like my granddaughter who are at risk of wandering." Cahoon is the mother of NAA President Wendy Fournier.

Since 2005, at least 14 children with autism under the age of 12 have died as a result of wandering. According to a study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders (Shavelle, et al, 2001), elevated death rates among those with autism were in large part attributed to drownings. An online survey conducted by NAA showed that 92% of children with autism are prone to wandering. Board member Becky Grant-Widen of Maine believes all children with developmental disabilities deserve access to this equipment. "This is such a needed program for our community."

Along with funding at least eight counties, NAA has also created generic fundraising tools for communities to download and use to raise funds in their own county for Project Lifesaver equipment. The FOUND Program will also provide advocacy in Washington for a federal bill offering guidance and funding to states.

To download fundraising tools or donate to The FOUND Program through NAA, visit Donors have a choice to also adopt an entire county for $6800 or a partial county for any given amount.

To learn more about Project Lifesaver, visit Pixie's Train Ride can be found at Parents and caregivers can also find safety tips on NAA's site at

CONTACT: Wendy Fournier, Portsmouth, RI, +1-401-835-5828, or Lori McIlwain, Cary, NC, +1-919-741-1646, both of National Autism Association

SOURCE National Autism Association

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