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Calls to Action

Sen. Schumer, Autism Speaks, NCMEC & NYPD to Address Autism Wandering

July 23, 2014

NEW  YORK (July 23, 2014)  - Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) will join representatives from Autism Speaks, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and NYPD at a news conference on Friday, July 25, at 10:30 a.m. to address efforts to educate first-responders, caregivers and the general public about the dangers of autism wandering and its frequency. 

Speakers will include Senator Charles Schumer; Liz Feld, President, Autism Speaks; John Ryan, President and CEO, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children; and Lieutenant Christopher Zimmerman, Commanding Officer, Missing Persons Squad, NYPD. Visit autismspeaks.org on Friday afternoon for complete coverage of the news conference. 

People with autism can become particularly vulnerable if they go missing. Given some of the core symptoms of the disorder, they can have communication difficulties, may not fully understand danger, and can become attracted to distant objects and bodies of water. Since the tragic loss of Avonte Oquendo in October 2013, there have been twelve deaths resulting from autism wandering incidents.  Most recently, 13-year-old Jonah Walpole died after having wandered into a pool in Rochester, NY. Accidental drowning has accounted for 91% of all U.S. deaths reported in children with autism ages 14 and younger subsequent to wandering.

Preventive measures, such as the importance of swimming lessons, will be discussed during the press conference, in addition to efforts that are already underway to reverse this alarming trend. In June, Sen. Schumer introduced "Avonte's Law," a bill that would provide federal funding to local law enforcement agencies to acquire tracking devices to protect children with disabilities who wander and to train police on how to interact with people with disabilities.  Autism Speaks and NCMEC have partnered to offer assistance to local first responders when children with autism go missing and are working together to raise awareness of wandering at the community level.

Contact Jacqueline Kepping, (347) 684-1835, Jacqueline.kepping@autismspeaks.org, for details on the news conference.