Only on 12: Woman starts foundation in memory of autistic child who drowned

Dogs for special needs

The organization will train special dogs and first responders to find autistic children in our area. (WRDW-TV / June 15, 2012)

News 12 at 6 o' clock / Friday, June 15, 2012

FORT GORDON, Ga. -- A new organization plans to bring peace of mind to parents of autistic children.

After the tragic drowning of an autistic 7-year-old at Fort Gordon, one woman saw the need for specialized search teams. The goal is to make sure other autistic children are safe.

Amy Cachman-Cliett, a local autism expert, came up with the idea.

"Our ultimate goal is that we have better trained first responders everywhere for when a child goes missing with autism," she said.

By training first responders along with special dogs, Cliett says the Augusta area will be better equipped for when autistic children wander from home.

"It is so common for these children to wander. It's even its own medical diagnosis now," she said.

The idea stemmed from the tragic drowning of an autistic 7-year-old, Hannah Ross, who wandered from her home on Fort Gordon. Divers
found her body at the bottom of a lake behind her home.

"Once Hannah went missing, I felt like my hands were tied. I wanted to do something, but I knew at Fort Gordon they had more than enough people out there. We weren't able to get out there, and we weren't able to save her," Cliett said.

And since that day, she has made it her personal goal to make sure no other children in our area suffer the same fate. She's even drafted legislation that would send out an alert if a child with a disability goes missing.

"I drafted the 'Hannah Alert,' but I knew that, that only goes so far if nobody's out there to really get the pieces in place to get the children found," she said.

So now, she is starting a nonprofit, which will be named in Hannah's memory. Among other things, the organization will train special dogs and first responders to find autistic children in our area.

"One of the things that is unique to the dogo [argentino] breed, which is what we've chosen to work with, is that they are trained for hunting, but hunting in the aspect of holding something there and keeping them in a location," she said.

A special trait that will come in handy when searching for children.

The dogs are also white, making them easier to see.

If you're interested in learning more about the foundation, updates can be found here.

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1212 Augusta, GA 30903 Main Telephone: (803) 278-1212 Newsroom: (803) 278-3111 Fax: (803) 442-4561
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