Police, Business Team Up To Help Autistic Teen


Kimora Miller, front row, right, speaks to the press about the help her son received from township police and a local business. Also pictured, front row, left to right are Jim O’Neil of Electronic Enterprise, Officer Rich Hartnett and Zion Miller. Photo: Franklin Township Police.

A Franklin youth struggling with Autism will be able to better communicate, thanks to township police and a local business.

Zion Miller, a 16-year-old resident who is non-verbal because of his condition, had many times run away from home. His mother, Kimora Miller, said she believes he did that because he was frustrated at not being able to communicate with her and others.

The last time Zion left home, Oct. 30, township Police Officer Richard Hartnett decided he needed to do something to help.

Zion was found by officers shortly after leaving home that day. Kimora Miller told Hartnett that Zion was able to communicate at his school, Bright Beginnings in Piscataway, thanks to the use of a tablet and a special piece of software.

The application the school uses, TouchChat, is a propriety piece of software developed by Apple, and costs close to $300.

Kimora Miller said she couldn’t afford the system because of the high price tag.

Hartnett, an 11-year veteran of the force, spoke to Patrolman Mark Rossman, president of the township’s PBA Local 154, about the Millers’ plight. Rossman agreed to have the Local buy the software for Zion, and suggested that a local business might be willing to buy the tablet.

Jim O’Neil, of Electronic Enterprise, on Cedar Grove Lane, agreed to donate a Samsung Galaxy tablet to the Millers.

“When we were approached by Officer Hartnett, it was kind of a no brainer,” O’Neil said. “We are a local company and want to be active within the community. It is our pleasure to provide them with the tablet if it can improve his communication skills and make their lives easier.”

“I really wanted to help Ms. Miller,” Hartnett said. “It’s very hard to be a parent, especially when you have a 3-year-old and an Autistic teen.”

“Zion’s issue of walking away is the result on his frustration from not being able to express his feelings,” Hartnett said. “If we can help fix the root problem, the other issues fall into line. I really just wanted to help Ms. Miller and her family.”

“This is an early Christmas present,” Miller said. “I can’t thank Officer Hartnett and Mr. O’Neil enough for all they have done. This device will allow Zion to communicate better and express his feelings. We’ve had this for a couple days now and he’s much calmer since he’s gotten it.”

In a press release about the donations, Police Chief Lawrence Roberts said, “This is an example of the commitment the men and women of the Franklin Township Police Department have to this community. Police work is not just about enforcing the laws, it’s about helping people.”

“Officer Hartnett went above and beyond to help this family,” Roberts said. “He enlisted his fellow officers in the union as well as partners in the private sector to assist a family in need. I am proud of the work my officers do to make this community great.”

Information for this story was supplied by Franklin Township Police Sgt. Phil Rizzo.

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