KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Forty-eight percent: That's the number of children with an autism spectrum disorder who will try to elope from a safe place, according to the National Autism Association. That's four times the rate of siblings without autism.
In 2009, 2010, and 2011, the association reports accidental drowning was the cause of 91 percent deaths in children with an autism spectrum disorder. For those reasons, parents have often begged for a way to keep track of their kids with autism, and some local parents are trying to make those resources available.
The death of little Gene Ferguson is especially hard for Brad Deichler, a Kansas City, Mo. police officer.
"I have an autistic son who is an eloper, a person that runs away a lot," Deichler explained. "My son is 11, he's eloped over 40 times and that's with all the information I have in place."
Because Deichler's gone through this, he uses a tracking system that works with radio waves. His son wears an ankle bracelet, and if he leaves a safe perimeter, an alert is sent to his family and neighbors. Deichler is now working with the police department to get a similar system in place within Kansas City, Mo.
"The best parent on earth, it's almost impossible, because they have an ability, they're escape artists," Deichler said.
Even for children without autism or other cognitive disorders, parents worry about their kids' whereabouts.
"Who doesn't stress about losing their kids. We all do," said Brian Sullivan.
Sullivan, a Leawood dad, created CareF and kidsport GPS. They're wristbands; one locks on the wrist, the other is like a watch. Both work with GPS to keep track of kids.
"It places a dot right where we are, and you can verify we're right here," explained Sullivan.
CareF also has a phone-like device with three phone numbers pre-programmed.
"She can call me right from it, so if she needs me, she'll just press this button," said Sullivan.
And with tragedies like the one that took Gene Ferguson on Tuesday, Sullivan says he hopes his product can save at least one life.
Both systems will be available soon. The Kansas City, Mo. police department will make their tracking system available sometime this summer. CareF and kidsport GPS will be available within eight weeks for sale.