‘Avonte’s Law’ Proposed After Autistic Teen Vanishes, Dies

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  • NEW YORK (AP) — The federal government would pay for GPS tracking devices for autistic children under legislation proposed Sunday by Sen. Charles Schumer and named for a New York City boy who wandered away from his school three months ago and was found dead in a city river.

    “Avonte’s Law,” named for 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo, would provide $10 million to pay for the high-tech device that could be worn on the wrist, kept in a wallet or sewn into clothing.

    Avonte walked away from his Queens school in October and his body was found in the East River earlier this month. About 200 mourners gathered Saturday for his funeral and investigators are still trying to determine how he died.

    “We can’t change the past, but we can take necessary steps to ensure we learn from this and put in place programs that will ensure that no parent and no child has to go through a similar nightmare in the future,” Schumer said at a news conference in his Manhattan office, joined by Avonte’s mother, Vanessa Fontaine, and grandmother Doris McCoy.

    About half of autistic children are prone to wandering, according to research published in 2012 in the journal Pediatrics, and wandering has led to the deaths of more than 60 autistic children since 2008. About 90 percent of the wandering fatalities in recent years have been drowning victims, according to the National Autism Association.

    Groups that advocate for autism-affected families have made it a priority to increase awareness of wandering. The study found that half of parents with autistic children never received advice or guidance from a professional on how to cope with wandering. Experts have recommended precautionary measures, including autistic children wearing ID bracelets or tracking devices.

    “Lord knows, if we had known within a matter of minutes where this boy was when he had walked out in a school, we might not be here,” said David Perecman, an attorney for Avonte’s family who has been speaking on their behalf. “Never again.”

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    One thought on “‘Avonte’s Law’ Proposed After Autistic Teen Vanishes, Dies

    1. Chase Park in Chicago has let this happen several times over the past couple of years. The Special Recreation program has lost both young adults and children with special needs. One young man showed up miles away from the park in the parking lot of Children’s Memorial Hospital(he was non-verbal). Some unknown stranger just dropped him off In the hospital parking lot. Another time a teen with special needs just walked away from summer camp. She walked about 5 or 10 city blocks to a family members’ home. The whole episode was hushed up and the person in charge at the time was later promoted. My advise to parents, guardians and care givers is make unplanned visits to your child/adult’s school/park program, you’ll get a better picture of what takes place when no one is watching.

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