U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to create and fund a program to provide voluntary tracking devices for children who have Autism or other developmental disorders in which “bolting” from parents or caregivers is common; the voluntary program would only be for parents who choose to use the devices. This month Avonte Oquendo bolted from a school in Queens and, four weeks later, he is still missing. The federal government already has a program to track seniors with Alzheimer’s, and Schumer said that this program should be extended to include children with Autism and other disorders. Schumer stressed that the program would be totally voluntary for parents, would be run by the police department or other local law enforcement, and would also provide funding for training of individuals on how to use and maintain these devices. Parents, schools, and law enforcement would all have to choose to participate. Massachusetts already has a successful program to help locate children with Autism that wander from their safe place.
“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. Voluntary tracking devices will help our teachers and parents in the event that the child runs away and, God forbid, goes missing,” said Schumer. “DOJ already funds these devices for individuals with Alzheimer’s and they should do the same for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Funding this program will help put school systems and parents of children and teens with Autism at ease knowing where their children are."