In 2003, Officer Jimmy Donohoe was invited to a meeting of the Autism Society of the Panhandle (Fla.), where members asked him what parents of nonverbal children could do to improve potential encounters between their children and law enforcement. After making several suggestions that were not acceptable to all the parents, Officer Donohoe left the meeting knowing that he had to do something. The “Take Me Home” program evolved from that meeting so that children on the autism spectrum who wander will be returned safely and treated with understanding.
Take Me Home was developed in cooperation with Consolidated Technology Solutions, a law enforcement software company, and with the support of then-Pensacola Police Chief John Mathis. In conjunction with the Autism Society’s Safe and Sound Initiative, the Take Me Home program will be distributed nationwide so that it may be available to all law enforcement agencies, free of charge. With this type of support, the program can be used by all law enforcement agencies to assist with those who may not be able to communicate or have forgotten their way home.
What is Take Me Home?
Take Me Home is a database developed by the Pensacola Police Department for people who may need special assistance if they are alone or in times of emergency. This kind of assistance may be required if the person is unable to speak or properly identify themselves, or if they become disoriented or act in a manner that could be misinterpreted by first responders. The system includes a current digital picture, demographic information and caregiver contacts. If a police officer encounters a person in the Take Me Home system, the officer can query the Take Me Home system, searching by name or by the person’s physical description. Once the individual’s Take Me Home record has been located, the officer has the information at hand to appropriately assist the person.
How does it work?
Police departments make the commitment to use the program and gather and maintain the individual enrollment records. Once the program is in place in a community, families or individuals contact the police department and submit a recent digital photo, description of height, weight and other demographic information as well as emergency contact information.
This information is placed in a database that can be accessed in a police cruiser or back at the station. If officers find someone who can’t communicate where he/she lives, they can search the database by description and return the person to their loved ones. The system also works in reverse — if a loved one goes missing, their picture and description are immediately available.
Take Me Home is voluntary for citizens who participate, and all information is kept confidential.
There is no charge to police departments for the program and there is no enrollment fee. However, there is a responsibility and commitment to keep the system updated and current. Autism Society affiliates are a perfect way to bring caregivers of individuals on the autism spectrum and police together.
For more information or to receive a free copy of the program, email firstname.lastname@example.org.