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A Heartbreaking Loss Has Sparked an Effort to Keep Kids With Autism Safe

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Just before 1 a.m. on Oct. 28, the body of 3-year-old Cameron Thomas was found in the wetlands near his family’s home in Chesapeake, Virginia. Cameron, who had autism, is believed to have exited the home through a window shortly after 6 p.m., according to WAVY News.

A local search party found the child, and the following day a spokesperson for the Chesapeake Police confirmed Cameron’s cause of death was drowning.

Cameron’s father, Cody Thomas, spoke with 13News Now about how the family is coping with the tragedy. “I’m going to miss him every day for the rest of my life,” Thomas said. “I don’t think there’s gonna be a minute that goes by that I don’t think about him. Same with his mom.”

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the family with funeral costs, and any leftover donations will be given to other families of children with autism who deal with elopement. So far $13,950 has been raised, with the original target of $10,000.

“All remaining proceeds will go to helping the autism chapter of Hampton Roads get GPS trackers for families who can’t afford them, so this never happens to another child again,” the page reads.

Elopement, or wandering, is a daily struggle for many parents of children with autism — 49 percent of children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have a tendency to wander or bolt from safe settings, according to the National Autism Association. Drowning is a leading cause of death in children with ASD, accounting for approximately 90 percent of fatalities.

Many families say they haven’t received professional advice or guidance aboout elopement, but a number of resources exist. Autism Speaks provides a list with a number of GPS tracking devices on the “Safety Products” section of its website, and clothing company Independence Day Wearable Tech sells apparel implanted with trackers.

Originally published: October 29, 2015
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