01/13/2015 07:44 EST | Updated 03/15/2015 05:59 EDT

Child with Down syndrome needs GPS tracker, says family

Members of a P.E.I. family are upset they have been denied provincial funding for a GPS tracker for their son, who has Down syndrome and tends to wander.

Shelley Simmons MacLeod of Summerside rarely lets eight-year-old Tyler out of her sight,  but on Christmas Day, for a brief moment, she and the boy's father were distracted, and he was gone.

“So eight of us were out on the streets of Summerside looking for Tyler,” said Simmons MacLeod.

“It's always been a happy ending when we find him. But the stress and the worry in the meantime is huge.”

Simmons MacLeod believes a lot of that stress and worry could be taken away with a GPS tracker.

The family is entitled to government assistance, under the disability support program, and she requested provincial funding for a $600 GPS tracker, but the request was denied. The government ruled the tracker was not a disability-specific need.

Tyler’s wandering tendencies are a serious problem, says Simmons MacLeod, because Tyler can't communicate his address and telephone number and doesn't see potential risks like other children his age.

“That puts him in danger,” she said.

“He's not going to get the help from somebody to lead him home, because he can't tell them where home is.”

She said the province once offered the family $1,000 towards fencing in her lot to keep Tyler safe, but that is not practical with their property.

The province says it can't comment on individual cases in the disability support program, but said it would provide support based on each client's specific needs.

For mobile device users:Should the province provide a GPS tracker for a child with a disability and a tendency to wander?