As the search for a missing autistic child continues in New York City, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is proposing a tracking initiative that could help to prevent similar stories from happening across the country. Schumer has requested that the Department of Justice begin funding voluntary programs that would give tracking devices to schools and caretakers who ask for them. The tracking devices might be worn around the wrist or ankle or looped between shoelaces, and would allow local law enforcement to locate children with autism who have run away.
"Unfortunately, this is not uncommon."
In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Schumer points out that the DOJ has previously funded similar programs aimed at offering tracking devices for individuals with Alzheimer’s. Children and teens with autism, he says, are just as at risk of becoming lost. "Unfortunately, this is not uncommon among children with [autism spectrum disorders]," Schumer writes, noting that a study by the Interactive Autism Network and AWAARE found that nearly half of all children with autism will run or wander off at least once.
The manufacturer of one existing tracking device, Project Lifesaver, says that wearing its tracker can reduce recovery time by 95 percent to just 30 minutes on average. But its device costs $99.99, and such an option may not be accessible for all guardians or school districts to employ. In light of Avonte Oquendo going missing in New York last month, Schumer writes that it's worth beginning to fund tracking programs like this: "In the wake of this terrible incident, and the many similar occurrences across the nation, we must do all that is necessary to ensure the safety of our children."