NEW YORK (July 25, 2014) - Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) joined representatives from Autism Speaks, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and NYPD to address efforts to educate first-responders, caregivers and the general public about the dangers of autism wandering and its frequency.
"It's imperative we do whatever we can to make sure others don't go through what Avonte's mother went through,” said Schumer at the University Settlement’s center in downtown Manhattan.
Senator Schumer also announced that there is bipartisan support in the House of Representatives for "Avonte's Law," his legislation inspired by the death of 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo, who died in a wandering incident last October. Rep. Peter King (R-NY) and Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) will soon be introducing “Avonte’s Law,” into the House.
Schumer talked about the importance of passing "Avonte's Law," his legislation inspired by the death of 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo, who died in a wandering incident last October.
The University Settlement has received grants from Autism Speaks to fund swimming and water safety lessons for financially disadvantaged individuals with autism.
Schumer thanked Autism Speaks for funding water safety programs around the country, saying they help "prevent fatal incidents of wandering.
Autism Speaks President Liz Feld echoed Schumer's call for more awareness, saying "we need a comprehensive approach to wandering in the autism community."
Feld spoke about the organization’s partnership with NCMEC to offer assistance to local first responders when children with autism go missing and how Autism Speaks and NCMEC are working together to raise awareness of wandering at the community level.
NCMEC President and CEO John Ryan said his organization's services "are available to all and are free thanks to the support of Senator Schumer" and other legislators like him in Washington.
Since the launch of the partnership, Autism Speaks has worked with NCMEC on more than 84 active autism wandering incidents, offering assistance to local first responders, and increasing critical awareness of the wandering incident at the community level.
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, there have been 13 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 percent of all U.S. deaths reported in children with autism ages 14 and younger subsequent to wandering.
Watch the entire news conference below: