It’s been a month since Avonte Oquendo was last seen leaving his Long Island City school. Now, one politician is proposing a program that could help prevent another child from going missing.
Senator Charles Schumer has called for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to both create and fund a program which would provide voluntary tracking devices for children with autism or other development disorders. The program would only include children whose parents choose to use the devices and would be designed for children with disorders in which bolting, running or wandering is common.
“The sights and sounds of cities, schools 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. “Voluntary tracking devices will help our teachers and parents in the event that the child runs away and, God forbid, goes missing.”
The tracking devices could be used as non-tampering wristwatches, anklets, or can be clipped onto belt loops or shoelaces.
When the child or teen goes missing, either the caregiver, parent or school notifies the device company, and then a trained emergency team responds to the location. A tracking device program like this already exists in Massachusetts. One kind of device, made by Project Lifesaver, averages a recovery time of 30 minutes.
Schumer also said the devices would be used together with educational and behavior supports.
Schumer called on the DOJ to award funds to local law enforcement agencies or organizations that would provide tracking devices for children with Autism. The DOJ has already awarded competitive grants to such organization that aide in finding missing people with Alzheimer’s.
“Funding this program will help put school systems and parents of children and teens with autism at ease knowing where their children are,” said Schumer.