Program established to assist in searches for missing children in Sioux Falls

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SIOUX FALLS - Police in Sioux Falls have established a program aimed at assisting authorities in case a special-needs child goes missing.

According to Public Information Officer Sam Clemens, the program is part of a proactive approach by police to find missing children as quickly as possible. Parents of children with special needs can voluntarily submit information about their child to the police department. In the event that child goes missing, that information will immediately be available to all officers in the search.

Clemens cites the increase in the number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as part of the reasoning behind establishing the program. In 2000, there were about 250 children diagnosed with ASD in South Dakota; by 2011, that number rose to 834.

A study by the Interactive Autism Network found that 49 percent of people with ASD are prone to wandering. Clemens says communication problems faced by some people with ASD also make it more difficult for those children to be found if they go missing.

Clemens also reminded the public that if a person with special needs goes missing, local authorities should be notified immediately.

The voluntary registration forms are available at