A new legislation in New York City has been proposed in the wake of the disappearance of Avonte Oquendo, the 14-year-old autistic boy whose remains were found last week after vanishing three months ago after wandering out of his Queens school.
Proposed by Sen. Chuck Schumer, the new legislation known as “Avonte’s Law” would allow parents to put GPS tracking devices on their autistic children. The law would provide $10 million in federal funds for high-tech devices that could be worn on the wrist, kept in a wallet or sewn into clothing.
"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.
Avonte’s 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. News of such legislation points to a national desire to decrease the amount of autistic children disappearances, as about half of them are known to wander, 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.
Autism advocates have longed called for an increased awareness of wandering among autistic youth. 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.
Each device costs about $85, plus a few dollars in monthly fees, the senator said, adding that hundreds of families with autistic children already have used privately funded tracking devices.