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Schumer Proposes 'Avonte's Law' to Fund Tracking Devices for Autistic Kids

 U.S. Senator Charles Schumer announced plans Sunday to introduce "Avonte's Law," named after Avonte Oquendo.
U.S. Senator Charles Schumer announced plans Sunday to introduce "Avonte's Law," named after Avonte Oquendo.
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NEW YORK — Sen. Charles Schumer announced plans Sunday to introduce Avonte's Law — a measure named after the autistic teen who vanished from his Long Island City school three months ago — which would help provide voluntary tracking devices for children with the condition.

The announcement, attended by members of Avonte Oquendo's family, came a day after funeral services were held for the boy in Manhattan. His remains were found on an East River beach earlier this month.

"The tragic end to the search for Avonte Oquendo clearly demonstrates that we need to do more to protect children with autism who are at risk of running away," Schumer said in a statement.

"Thousands of families face the awful reality each and every day that their child with autism may run away."

Schumer's proposal would expand on an existing program that helps track at-risk Alzheimer's patients, and would provide $10 million nationwide for the devices to be distributed to local police departments, schools or other organizations.

The devices would be monitored by a third party, which would respond in case of an emergency. According to the senator, missing kids are usually found in about 30 minutes with one of the trackers, Project Lifesaver.

Use of the tracking devices — which can be worn like a wristwatch or anklet, clipped onto belt loops or shoelaces or even woven into specially-designed clothing — would be entirely voluntary, Schumer stressed.

They would cost less than $100 with operating costs estimated to be between $9 and $15-a-month. The cost to parents would be minimal, Schumer's spokesman said.

The senator cited statistics about "bolting," which is common among autistic children and teens, saying 49 percent attempt to run or wander off at some point.

Avonte, who was 14 and nonverbal, was last seen on surveillance footage running out a side door at his high school, The Riverview School, in Long Island City on Oct. 4.

His disappearance sparked a massive, months-long search effort that came to an end last week when remains that washed up on a beach in College Point were positively identified as Avonte's.

"There is no medicine to relieve the pain from the loss of a child," the family's attorney, David Perecman, said in a statement accompanying Schumer's announcement. 

"However, Avonte's law will make sure that this grave loss and the pain it has wrought will not be vain."