The U.S. Senate yesterday passed S. 2614, Kevin and Avonte's Law, legislation that would help safeguard children with autism or other developmental disabilities from wandering. According to a recent national survey, a third of school-age children with autism had wandered away from caregivers.
Kevin and Avonte’s Law is named in honor of two boys with autism who perished after wandering. Nine-year-old Kevin Curtis Wills wandered from home and drowned in Iowa’s Raccoon River in 2008. Fourteen year-old Avonte Oquendo left his school and drowned in New York City’s East River in 2014.
The legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate by a bipartisan group of Senators that included Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina. Representative Chris Smith, co-chair of the Congressional Autism Caucus, and Representative Maxine Waters have introduced a companion bill in the U.S House of Representatives.
Kevin and Avonte's Law would allow Justice Department grants to be used by law enforcement agencies and nonprofits for educational and other programs. The grants would facilitate training and emergency protocols for school personnel, supply first responders with additional information and resources, and make locating technology programs available for individuals who may wander from safety.
“We sincerely thank the champions of Kevin and Avonte’s law in the U.S. Senate who worked tirelessly to pass this legislation aimed at protecting individuals who may wander from safety,” said Angela Geiger, president and CEO of Autism Speaks, “Protecting our loved ones is a crucial issue for our community and we look forward to advocating for this legislation in the House of Representatives to fully empower communities to prevent wandering and locate loved ones who may be missing.”