This morning the U.S. House of Representatives passed Kevin and Avonte’s law, legislation that will help safeguard children with autism or other developmental disabilities from wandering.
The autism circles are buzzing about this. I’m seeing posts on Facebook and Instagram and people are excited.
But what does that actually mean? How does the law help safeguard autistic children?
Kevin and Avonte’s Law is named for two autistic boys who drowned after wandering. Nine year old Kevin Curtis Willis drowned in the Raccoon River in central Iowa in 2008, while 14 year old Avonte Oquendo drowned in the East River in New York City in 2014.
A bill was introduced to the Senate back in March 2016, and it passed in July 2016. According to the summary on congress.gov:
This bill amends the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 to revise and rename the Missing Alzheimer’s Disease Patient Alert Program as the Missing Americans Alert Program and to reauthorize it through FY2021.
It directs the Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) Bureau of Justice Assistance to award grants to state and local law enforcement or public safety agencies and nonprofit organizations to prevent wandering and locate missing individuals with dementia or developmental disabilities.
DOJ must establish and certain grant recipients must comply with standards and best practices related to the use of tracking technology to locate missing individuals with dementia or developmental disabilities.
The law expands a program designed to locate missing Alzheimer’s patients. It will now include autistic children and as well as those with developmental disabilities.
Now I’m seeing a post on Autism Speaks page, asking us to contact our Senators and support the House bill. But didn’t the Senate already pass it back in July? I’m confused about that part, someone enlighten me.
In layman’s terms, what does Kevin and Avonte’s law mean for us?
When I read the bill, it says the Attorney General will award grants to various state and local agencies. These grants will provide education and training. It will also help these agencies develop a program to safeguard children with developmental disabilities. There is verbiage about tracking technology. But when I read further down only $2 million a year will be appropriated for all this.
Is that going to be enough money to spread out to fifty states and the local agencies within it?
While I think it’s a noble law, I have a feeling it will have limited reach. $2 million a year will only go so far.
So what’s an autism parent to do?
While congress hashes things out, there is plenty we can do in the meantime. The first is to find out if you have Smart911 in your area. If your community provides it, you can provide details such as a photo and description of your child. You can also provide medical information in the event of a wandering. If the unforeseeable happens and you call 911, the information will be handy for dispatchers.
If you don’t have Smart911 in your area, contact your police station and ask about similar programs they may have.
There is also a safety kit called Big Red Safety Box.
The Big Red Safety Box contains a treasure trove of resources. It includes Wireless Door/Window Alarms with batteries, Shoe ID tag, as well as written information to keep your child safe from wandering.
Lastly I’d like to mention Angel Sense. I have not used it personally, but as I understand it is a tracking device designed to help you monitor your child. It will alert you if they are not where they are supposed to be.
What about you? Do you have any tips for keeping your autistic child safe from wandering?