There’s a huge amount of momentum to fast-track a bill designed to help children with autism and other developmental disabilities from wandering away.
The bill, known as Kevin and Avonte’s Law, is bipartisan and was unanimously approved by the U.S. Senate in July. Energized advocates are now working overtime to get the House of Representatives to take up this measure this year.
Kevin and Avonte’s Law at a Glance
The bill is named for two young boys – Avonte Oquendo (14) and Kevin Wills (9) – who lost their lives after wandering away from others.
Avonte disappeared in October 2013 during a normal school day at Riverview School in Queens, NY. His remains were found nearly three months later after he had drowned in East River.
Kevin also drowned after he jumped into Raccoon River in Iowa.
Study Reveals That Nearly Half of Autistic Children Wander from Safety
Research carried out by the Interactive Autism Network (IAN) confirmed that, based upon reports from parents of autistic children, 50% of the youngsters went missing long enough to trigger significant distress about their safety.
Just over 800 parents of children with autism participated in the study.
Interestingly, the behavior seems to peak at age four (4).
Reasons Children With Autism Bolt
In spite of a general belief that most of elopements by children with autism peak during the summer, the IAN study saw no pattern whatsoever related to the seasons.
According to the parents in the study, the most common reasons children with autism wander or bolt from their surroundings are they:
- Enjoy exploring
- Are anxious to escape from anxieties of demands from others
- Need to escape from sensory discomfort
- Feel much more secure in a favorite place with familiar surroundings
The Dangers of Elopement
The tendency of people with autism to wander away puts them at serious risk of injury, trauma and – as in the case of the two boys listed above – death.
According to the research from IAN:
- More than a third of children with autism who elope are rarely able to communicate their name, address or phone number – either verbally or by writing or typing
- Two in three parents said their missing child had narrowly missed a traffic injury
- 32% of the parents said their wandering child had a close call with drowning
How Could Kevin and Avonte’s Law Prevent or Curb Wandering?
Through Kevin and Avonte’s Law, the U.S. Department of Justice will be able to provide grants to law enforcement agencies to fund electronic tracking devices for those with developmental disabilities.
It will also provide school personnel, first responders and other community officials with training so that they are better able to prevent and respond to cases involving those who have wandered away from their caregivers.
If Your Child Has Autism, Call The Fitzgerald Law Firm
We’ll definitely keep track of the progress of Kevin and Avonte’s Law and will bring you the latest news concerning it.
In the meantime, if your child has autism that has resulted from medical malpractice or exposure to environmental toxins, get in touch with us here at The Fitzgerald Law Firm.
We’ll gladly treat you to a free consultation when you call 800-323-9900.