NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — News 8 is recognizing the significant contributions women have made to our nation and local communities. Remarkable Women is part of a nationwide Nexstar Media initiative to honor the influence that women have had on public policy, social progress and the quality of life.
Throughout Women’s History Month, News 8 highlighted four local women who inspire, lead and forge the way for other women.
Meet Naugatuck resident Jenn Harding.
Harding is a single mom. Her son, Derek, is a non-verbal 11-year-old with autism, epilepsy, and Tourette syndrome, and she has experienced the panic when he takes off, nowhere to be found.
Derek, and children like him, sometimes like to wander off. Harding doesn’t know what may happen to him in moments like these.
“He snuck right out the front door,” Harding said. “He was just standing in the middle of the street, like, I’m fine, just going for a walk.”
With instances like these, Harding knew it was time to act, so she launched “Walk With Derek,” a nonprofit that provides resources to bring families with children with autism together. As a part of this nonprofit, Harding was able to get the police involved, creating a form for their databases so officers know exactly what to do if they come across a child on the spectrum.
The Naugatuck Police Department was the first to add these forms to their databases, but now, they are in about 30 towns, and people from states such as Colorado, California, and Nevada are looking to add the forms there.
Forms were step one, but now she is creating kits for the police to keep in patrol cars to help a child in distress.
It’s about protecting families and kids throughout Connecticut — and beyond, while she battles recurring nightmares of Derek running away, creating a little peace of mind for herself and others.