“Avonte’s Law”: GPS Tracking System For Children With Autism

In October of 2013, New York teen Avonte Oquendo, disappeared from his school and was confirmed dead last month. Avonte was afflicted with autism and seen in security cameras fleeing the school on the day he went missing. Now, New York Democratic Senator Charles Schumer has proposed a bill that would provide optional tracking devices for children with autism. The legislation is known as “Avonte’s Law” and would designate $10 million in federal funding for the program. The focus of the program would be aimed at locating missing children with autism more quickly.
Subsequent to his disappearance, volunteers spent months searching for Avonte. Sadly, his remains were found last month along the banks of the East River.

The program is modeled after a similar program for people who suffer from Alzheimer’s. “We know how to do it, we’ve seen it done – it works,” says Senator Schumer. Under the new program, police would track kids.
“The only barrier is the funding,” says Senator Schumer, “the devices themselves cost about 80 or 90 dollars, and then it costs only a few dollars a month to do the monitoring.” The devices would be designed to be worn anywhere: belts, wristwatches, shoelaces.

Representatives of Autism Speaks hope the bill will become law. However, the autism awareness group also wants more far-reaching legislation on a federal level that would include funding to teach practical skills like swimming. Autistic children have a higher rate of drowning, encouraged by their noted inclination for water. While Avonte’s case remains under investigation, the authorities have not ruled out drowning being that he was found near a river.

Lisa Steffek

About Lisa Steffek

Lisa Steffek is a third year student at the University of Houston Law Center. Lisa completed her Bachelors, Masters and Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Texas in Human Development and Family Sciences. As an undergraduate, Lisa worked as a research assistant studying child attachment. Lisa also worked for several years at The Settlement Home, a residential treatment center for emotionally disturbed adolescent females. Most of the girls at The Settlement Home had been removed from their homes by Child Protective Services, and Lisa worked with the girls to teach them life-skills and provided psychological treatment to prepare them for adulthood and the transition to foster homes. Lisa also worked for six years in various academic capacities at the University of Texas, including an undergraduate teaching assistant, graduate research assistant, and undergraduate writing consultant. Lisa has presented papers regarding human development at various academic conferences in the states and abroad, and has had her writing published in an international, academic journal.

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