The Politics of Autism discusses the problem of wandering, which has been the topic of legislation before Congress.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) have introduced legislation to help families locate missing loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease, autism and related conditions. Kevin and Avonte’s Law (S. 2070), named in honor of two boys with autism who perished after wandering from safety, would also support training for caregivers to prevent and respond to instances of wandering.
The bill, which passed the Senate by voice vote in the 114th Congress, is named in honor of two young boys diagnosed with autism who wandered away from supervised settings and drowned. One of the two, nine year-old Kevin Curtis Wills, died in 2008 after jumping into the Raccoon River near his home town of Jefferson, Iowa. The other, high school student Avonte Oquendo of Queens, New York, drowned in NYC’s East River in 2014. Six year-old Hamza Elmi of St. Cloud, Minnesota, who was also diagnosed with autism, drowned in the Mississippi River near his home in 2015.
The bill would reauthorize the expired Missing Alzheimer’s Disease Patient Alert Program, and broaden it to support people with autism and other developmental disabilities. Specifically, the bill would allow Justice Department grants to be used for state and local education and training programs to help prevent wandering and reunite caregivers with missing family members who have a condition linked to wandering.
Under the bill, the grants can be used for the development of training and emergency protocols for school personnel, to supply first responders with additional information and resources, and for locative tracking technology programs to assist the families and caregivers of individuals who may wander from safety because of their condition. Grant funding may also be used to establish or enhance notification and communications systems for the recovery of missing children with autism.
Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) are also cosponsoring this legislation. Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.) will also cosponsor the bill.
The bill is supported by, among others, the Autism Society of Iowa, Autism Speaks, the National Autism Association, SafeMinds, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, ANCOR (American Network of Community Options), National Autism Society of America, the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement, the National Down Syndrome Society, and the Color of Autism Foundation.
More information on Kevin and Avonte’s Law is available HERE. Bill text can be found HERE.