Last fall, Avonte Oquendo, a New York teenager with severe autism, walked out of his school through an open door and went missing. The disappearance led to an extensive manhunt that ended in heartbreak when the child’s body was found in the East River. On Wednesday, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced a new federal measure aimed at preventing such a tragedy from happening again.
Families who have children with autism will now have the option to get a tracking device for their kids for $85 through the Department of Justice. The program already exists seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Schumer said that he will also push a bill in Congress, dubbed “Avonte’s Law,” that would make the program permanent and give it a more stable source of funding.
“The sights and sounds of New York City and other busy places can be over-stimulating and distracting for children and teens with Autism, often leading to wandering as a way to escape,” said Schumer during a press conference announcing the measure. “Voluntary tracking devices will help our teachers and parents in the event that the child runs away and, God forbid, goes missing.”
WBNG New York reports that several studies have found that autistic children are at a high risk of going missing. Approximately half of teenagers with autism attempt to run from their homes, schools, or a store, and over half of those teens go missing for long enough to warrant a search.