The federal government plans to fund tracking devices for autistic children, too often those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) don’t value boundaries. They don’t have an accurate perception of danger. Children with ASD are known to wander or run away from safe spaces. Many fatalities have been reported because autistic children don’t understand the risk associated with this type of behavior.
The autism community is well acquainted with the horror associated when children and adult dependents choose to leave a safe place and unknowingly put themselves in harm’s way. Finally, in the wake of 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo’s untimely death, the government has determined to help families track their autistic loved ones. Oquendo went missing in October and was found dead in the East River, three months after running away from school.
According to the Interactive Autism Network (IAN) Elopement and Wandering Questionnaire initiated in 2011 nearly 1000 families with children diagnosed with ASD agree this behavior is typical in the autistic community. What is additionally alarming is out of this number at least 35 percent of these families reported their children are rarely if ever able to communicate their phone number, address or even name if questioned.
Out of the parents and caretakers who reported that their autistic child had ever tried to run away or leave their “safe place’ stated nearly half of them actually succeeded. The children went missing long enough to invoke serious concern from the parents about their safety. Many of the parents had to contact law enforcement to help locate their child. At least two-thirds of the reports of a wandering child resulted in a “close call” with a traffic injury and one-third with drowning.
Parents said when asked about their child’s state of mind when roaming they believe their child was being playful or focused. They were happy at the time and just had intentions to do something or go somewhere. Only a few parents felt like their autistic child was sad or anxious when leaving a safe place.
Recently Senator Chuck Schumer, of New York, proposed the Avonte’s Law in honor the latest tragedy to hit the autism community involving Oquendo. The bill would allot $10 million in funding for GPS tracking devices for children and dependents with autism. The Department of Justice has decided while waiting for the bill to be passed they would go ahead, split the money and get the ball rolling on the devices.
Senator Schumer said the idea is to protect the children as well as the help parents find their loved ones with ASD if they should wander off. He said the goal is to secure long-term funding. With the proposed tracking device a teacher, caregiver or parent of the autistic child could contact the company that provided the device. In turn the company, with the help of GPS technology, would dispatch emergency responders to track the individual wearing the device. The device can be clipped to clothing or worn on the ankle or wrist.
According to national autism organizations 49 percent of teens or children with autism tend to wander or run away. Avonte’s Law would not only authorize federal funding for the purchase of the tracking devices but will also provide training for optimal usage.
Federal government plans to fund tracking devices for autistic children and dependents because those with ASD don’t have an accurate perception associated with the danger of leaving a safe place. People with ASD are known to wander or run away and far too many fatalities have resulted due to this type of behavior.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
AZ Star Net
Interactive Autism Network