Schumer calls for tracking devices for kids with autism

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) introduced a bill Thursday that would fund a voluntary tracking program for families who have children with autism or other disabilities where “bolting” from parents is common.

“Thousands of families face the awful reality each and every day that their child with autism may run away,” Schumer said. “Making voluntary tracking devices available will help put parents at ease, and most importantly, help prevent future tragedies.”

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The legislation was inspired by a federal program that is already in place to track seniors with Alzheimer’s and the death of Avonte Oquendo, an autistic 14-year-old who bolted from his New York school. Searchers found his body more than three months after he wandered off.

“By expanding the innovative program we currently have in place for at-risk Alzheimer’s patients, we will help thousands of families avoid what Avonte’s family just experienced,” Schumer said.

S. 2386, also known as Avonte's Law, would create a new $10 million program within the Department of Justice that would provide communities with tracking devices, such as wristwatches, anklets or shoe clips. Families would voluntarily opt into the program, which would also provide law enforcement training in how to assist families with children who wander.

Schumer said the tracking devices would allow law enforcement officers to find children who wander off in as little as 30 minutes, greatly reducing their risk of injury or death.

Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) is cosponsoring the bill.