EL DORADO COUNTY (CBS13) — It has become a common call to police, to help families find a child or adult with autism who goes missing.
The El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office uses a special autism registry to help find them. So far, 65 people with the disorder are on the registry, but the Sheriff’s Office wants more people to sign up.
“We were all relaxing at home and it got quiet,” said Jennifer Rush.
Fear and anxiety came flooding over Rush when she realized her 10-year-old daughter, Elani Noel, who has autism, was missing.
Rush says she called 911 right away as her family scoured their neighborhood.
“She was just nowhere to be found,” Rush said.
Law enforcement poured into Rush’s neighborhood within minutes to help search for the young girl. Rush says her father found her a short time later. The young girl had wandered off into the woods and was stuck in a ravine 20 minutes away.
“We’ve noticed a rise in search and rescues with missing autism patients,” said Lieutenant Jim Byers of the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office.
Elani is one of many people with autism who have walked away and gone missing in El Dorado County over the years, according to Byers.
He says those incidents spiked in the early 2000’s. And in 2005, the Sheriff’s Office launched an autism registry to help.
“That information is immediately accessible and sent out to all patrol units and search and rescue crews; they can see their photo, any special traits, and circumstances,” Byers added.
He says the autism registry has helped the Sheriff’s Office locate dozens of people with the disorder since it launched.
“Minutes and seconds do make a big difference between life and death,” noted Byers.
In a situation where lives are on the line and every second counts, it’s an experience Rush says she never wants to repeat again.
“I just would never want this to happen to anybody. It’s a parent’s worse nightmare,” said Rush.
Rush has since placed Elani on the autism registry.
The El Dorado County Sheriff’s office has a similar registry for elderly residents who have Alzheimer’s and dementia.
If you have a loved one who has been diagnosed with autism who lives in El Dorado County, you can obtain an autism registry form “here.”