Schumer Introduces Bill to Protect Autistic Children

Senator wants to prevent Avonte’s tragedy from happening again.

Eric Wright speaks to other pedestrians while wearing a placard with a picture of a missing autistic 14-year-old named Avonte Oquendo, on October 21, 2013 in the Queens borough of New York City. Hundreds of Police, volunteers, friends and family are searching for Avonte who walked out of the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City, Queens on October 4, 2013 and has not been seen since. Family members say that the teen has a fondness for trains and have focused their search along rail yards and in subway stations.
National Journal
Laura Ryan
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Laura Ryan
Jan. 27, 2014, 7:16 a.m.

Al­most four months after the aut­ist­ic teen dis­ap­peared from his Queens, N.Y., pub­lic school and one week after his re­mains were found along the shore of the East River, Avonte Oquendo was laid to rest Sat­urday.

Monday, Sen. Chuck Schu­mer in­tro­duced a bill aimed at pre­vent­ing it from hap­pen­ing again.

Schu­mer un­veiled “Avonte’s Law” with the boy’s moth­er stand­ing by his side. His bill would per­mit law-en­force­ment agen­cies to place a GPS device on aut­ist­ic chil­dren so that if they dis­ap­pear, they can be found quickly and re­turned home to safety. The devices could be worn around chil­dren’s wrists, at­tached to their shoelaces, or even sewn in­to their cloth­ing. Schu­mer de­scribed his plan as a “high-tech solu­tion to an age-old prob­lem.”

Aut­ism is a brain de­vel­op­ment dis­order that af­fects 1 in 88 chil­dren, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion. Com­mon symp­toms of aut­ism in­clude cog­nit­ive, lan­guage and be­ha­vi­or­al dis­ab­il­it­ies with vari­ations in sever­ity.

Wan­der­ing is a par­tic­u­lar chal­lenge for many par­ents of chil­dren with aut­ism. Ac­cord­ing to The New York Times, since 2011, 41 U.S. chil­dren with aut­ism have died after wan­der­ing off.

“Even­tu­ally we had to put locks on top of doors, and that’s how people with aut­ism live,” said Mi­chael Rosen, ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of Aut­ism Speaks, of his own son, Nicky. “You can’t turn your back for one second.”

Schu­mer’s bill would fill a gap left by the the fed­er­al Am­ber Alert sys­tem, which can be used onlyh for chil­dren who have been ab­duc­ted and does not ex­tend to chil­dren who have wandered off.

With fund­ing from the Justice De­part­ment, the pro­gram would be vol­un­tary and free for par­ti­cipants and would be im­ple­men­ted by loc­al po­lice de­part­ments.

The bill is modeled after a fed­er­al pro­gram cre­ated to track Alzheimer’s pa­tients.

What We're Following See More »
McMullin Leads in New Utah Poll
2 hours ago

Evan McMul­lin came out on top in a Emer­son Col­lege poll of Utah with 31% of the vote. Donald Trump came in second with 27%, while Hillary Clin­ton took third with 24%. Gary John­son re­ceived 5% of the vote in the sur­vey.

Quinnipiac Has Clinton Up by 7
2 hours ago

A new Quin­nipi­ac Uni­versity poll finds Hillary Clin­ton lead­ing Donald Trump by seven percentage points, 47%-40%. Trump’s “lead among men and white voters all but” van­ished from the uni­versity’s early Oc­to­ber poll. A new PPRI/Brook­ings sur­vey shows a much bigger lead, with Clinton up 51%-36%. And an IBD/TIPP poll leans the other way, showing a vir­tu­al dead heat, with Trump tak­ing 41% of the vote to Clin­ton’s 40% in a four-way match­up.

Trump: I’ll Accept the Results “If I Win”
3 hours ago
Duterte Throws His Lot in with China
6 hours ago

During a state visit to China, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte "declared an end to his country’s strategic alignment with the United States and pledged cooperation with Beijing." Duterte told Chinese President Xi Jinping that he's "realigned myself in your ideological flow and maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world—China, Philippines, and Russia. It’s the only way.”

Hatch Considering 2018 Re-election Run
7 hours ago

Reports say that Orrin Hatch, who in 2012 declared that he would retire at the end of his term, is considering going back on that pledge to run for an eighth term. Hatch, who is the longest serving Republican in the Senate, is unlikely to make any official declaration until after this election cycle is completed.


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.