The Politics of Autism discusses the problem of wandering, which has been the topic of legislation before Congress.
Shalom Lawson, an 8-year-old Louisville boy who loved hugging people he just met, wandered from a relative's home last summer and drowned.
He had autism, a disorder that causes many children to walk off. "Elopers,"as they are called, are especially drawn to water and are unaware of the risks.
"Water makes them feel calm, but water is very, very dangerous," said Shalom's mother, Magdalene Lawson, who came to America from West Africa with her husband, Charles.
She told Courier Journal she tried to protect her son by locking her bathroom to keep him from filling up the bathtub. She feared he would burn himself or drown. And she said she kept an alarm on her front door that would beep if he tried to get out.
But on a visit with family near Indianapolis last July, Shalom wandered off and drowned in a retention pond.
The story of Shalom's death is being shared with MetroSafe dispatchers and others who respond to emergencies in the Louisville area by trainers who are working with them on how to help people with autism.
"The police, fire department and EMS are in our society to be that resource to every individual," said Deborah Morton, executive director of Families for Effective Autism Treatment in Louisville. She said a tense situation can turn chaotic if emergency personnel don't know how to respond.