The death of Avonte Oquendo, the New York teenager that went missing after wandering away from school last fall, has prompted a lawmaker to introduce a bill that would fund GPS tracking devices for all children with autism.
The numerous “Missing Person” flyers scattered throughout New York City in the days following Oquendo’s disappearance explained that the teenager had autism and could not speak. He was recently found dead in the East River.
The new law, introduced by New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, is being referred to as “Avonte’s Law” in honor of the teenager. The law would allocate $10 million in funding for the tracking devices.
“Avonte’s Law will allow his memory to live on while helping to prevent more children with autism from going missing,” Schumer said, according to Yahoo News, “The technology will allow parents of all children with autism – no matter how much or how little money they have — to enjoy the benefits of a high-tech solution to an age-old problem.”
The decision to implement GPS tracking devices has proved controversial, as many fault Avonte’s school teachers and those that were responsible for watching over him for his disappearance. Avonte’s family also plans to file a wrongful death suit against the child’s school.
Schumer’s plan, however, is modeled after an existing law that funds tracking devices for patients with Alzheimer’s.
“We’ve seen it done - it works. All that stands in the way is funding,” Schumer said, referencing the existing Alzheimer’s program to emphasize his point.
Because autism occurs in different forms across a spectrum that varies from individual to individual, it could be difficult to determine which children are eligible for GPS tracking devices and which children do not need them. According to NBC News, however, research shows that “49% of children with autism wander off or run away.”
Avonte’s Law could prevent more children from being unnecessarily injured or killed, but it will also allocate funding to a complex issue which needs further, more careful consideration.