How water becomes a deadly draw for kids with autism

Thousands of moms and dads have several locks on their doors because they’re worried their child will get out and never come back.

It’s a phenomenon we noticed after kids went missing over and over again. Some never made it home.

Some children can’t seem to stay away from water.

Many of them drown.

And unfortunately, not every first responder has what they need to save them.

Magdalene and Charles Lawson have to come to this neighborhood pond now to meet with their 8-year-old son.

"Shalom, I miss you. It’s really hard for me without you," said his mother Magdalene.

"We love you. But God loves you best," said his father Charles.

On a Friday afternoon in July, Shalom wandered out of his aunt’s house in Brownsburg and made it across the street to a retention pond.

Water his parents feared.

The next day, searchers found Shalom’s body.

"I talk to the water. Any time I come to the water, I say, ‘Why?’ I always say, ‘Why?’" Charles said.

And Shalom isn’t the only child.

In September 5-year-old Andrew Khyang was found dead in a pond after hours of searching near his home in Indianapolis.

And there are some close calls.

Late one night in May, a 3-year-old got out of his family’s apartment.

IMPD found him in a retention pond face down, alive.

In Wayne Township, 6-year-old Aiden Miller wandered off during recess.

A deputy just so happened to see Aiden thrashing in the pond and saved him, a quarter mile away from school.

Shalom and the other kids all had autism.

The National Autism Association says 91% of kids with autism who die before they’re 14, die from drowning.

Saving them comes easier with technology.

A program called Project Lifesaver can track anyone wearing a special bracelet.

Karen Hendershot with the Avon Fire Department has seen it work and prevent tragedies like Shalom Lawson.

"Project Lifesaver could have been able to locate him quickly. It’s something i think about all the time. What could’ve happened it he would’ve been part of Project Lifesaver," said Hendershot.

Project Lifesaver takes credit for 3,300 rescues nationwide, but only 32 of Indiana’s 92 counties have Project Lifesaver trackers.

Most simply can’t afford it.

"The more you get word out about the program the more funding that agency needs to have in order to provide that equipment," Hendershot said.

It costs $300 per bracelet and $1,200 for one tracker.

We contacted nearly a dozen state lawmakers asking if they’ve heard of Project Lifesaver and the funding gap.

None responded.

So for now, some parents can only hope help doesn’t come too late.

"We need help, " Magdalene said.

There are only two statewide Project Lifesaver programs: Alabama and New Jersey.

But only Alabama uses taxpayer dollars to pay for it and there aren’t enough bracelets for everyone.

I’ll let you know if I hear anything back from the Indiana Statehouse.

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