It was in these pages back in September of 2009 that the plight of the Forget family was publicized.
Kathleen and Trevor were making the best of a difficult situation – with two autistic children, Nathan, 5 and Allison, 3. They were looking at the threat of significant cuts to government funding for their kids’ treatment.
In spite of eloquent and impassioned protests the cuts went through and the children’s productive and therapeutic time at the Queen Alexandra institution in Saanich came to an end.
Options back then for the Forget children were limited because of their need for extensive therapy. Nathan, for example had been diagnosed as severely autistic.
Fast forward a couple of years and the challenges remain. The couple has separated, meaning Kathleen has about double the responsibility and workload, not to mention the worry.
Parenting is a full time pursuit even in the rosiest of scenarios, but these kids of Kathleen’s are truly a handful. Each of them can and will run away at the first opportunity, meaning Kathleen can rarely let her guard down.
Entering the picture now, much to Kathleen’s relief, is Project Lifesaver of Greater Victoria, operating in conjunction with the We Rage We Weep Alzheimer Foundation. With compassion and technology the non-profit foundation has fitted both kids with transmitting bracelets, the same type so effectively used by families for Alzheimer’s patients, those likely to wander away from a safe environment.
It’s a proven process that offers some amount of peace of mind to folks in need.
Kathleen says the average time in locating a person with a bracelet is 30 minutes. The response time, ideally, will improve here in the Sooke area if and as the program becomes established and the appropriately qualified personnel become acquainted with it.
For example, as it is now, if Nathan or Allison goes missing, someone from Project Lifesaver would need to come out from Victoria to start the electronic search which would add to a police effort already underway.
“Nathan has run away five times this month,” said Kathleen on April 27.
The bracelets, as Kathleen pointed out, won’t stop a kid from running away, drowning or running in front of traffic, but they will offer some level of reassurance even in worst-case scenarios. She referred to the case of a young autistic boy in Quebec who had vanished in the past several weeks while playing with his sister dangerously close to a rushing river. The boy had apparently still not been found long after the possibility of his survival had been ruled out.
“These mean instead of kids getting lost, going missing overnight, they will be found,” stressed Kathleen.
These are early days for the local application of the service. As mentioned, and emphasized by Dr. Marjorie Moulton, Executive Director of the We Rage We Weep Alzheimer Foundation, only the most reliable, most qualified local personnel available will be sought for partnering in the service.
Dr. Moulton explained that there are up-front and monthly fees that can be payable, but that they may be waived “in circumstances where finances are a challenge.”
She went on to declare that her foundation, “is only able to fund those clients with dementia who are prone to wandering as our mandate does not extend to children or teens with Autism such as in Kathleen’s case. We have, however, been able to secure some limited assistance through another organization to assist those folks but that funding is quickly being used up and there is a great need for a group or organization to step up and make more funding available.”
Sooke Fire Chief Steve Sorensen was contacted for comment and said it was felt Juan de Fuca Search and Rescue (JDFSAR) was the most appropriate agency and he had already referred an interested party to it.
Phil Meikle of the JDFSAR said that although he had yet to hear from someone about the Lifesaver Project, he felt the plan had definite merit.
“The idea sounds great,” said Meikle, “absolutely. If it’s worked for one it’ll work for others, and it would sure make the chance of (quickly locating) these individuals much greater.”