Recently on the news, there was a story about a 14 year old with Autism, Avonte Oquendo, who was found dead when he went missing from a New York City school. Could you imagine the agony his family went through during those first hours when the school reported him missing? Not to mention the moment they received news that his remains were found.
As a mom who is raising a teenager with Autism, the probability of my son walking out of our home, never to be seen or heard from again, is a constant source of worry. Autism parents know all too well of their kids’ desire for control and independence. The desire to fit in and be like everyone else is normal. However, kids with Autism may easily open the front door, without muttering a word to anyone, and simply walk out of their homes. Sad to say, we have experienced this with our son on more than one occasion. Once at a rather large outlet center, and a couple of times at our home. In their minds, these kids see absolutely nothing wrong with just simply stepping away. My son simply says, I just wanted to go do something. In his mind, telling mom and dad where he’s headed to, whose house he’s going to, or how long he will be out for, just doesn’t register. I completely understand his desire for independence. Every teenager goes through that. Unfortunately, my son is not every teenager. There are certain outside dangers that just don’t register; and this is what makes it so dangerous.
As an Autism parent I do my share of research; and recently I stumbled across something called The Justice Department’s Byrne grant program. I had never heard of this but it’s a program in which police departments nationwide will be able to make the tracking devices available to children in their communities, who are at risk of wandering. The U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has determined that Byrne funding could be used for tracking devices.
Parents who are interested in obtaining one of these tracking devices, should contact their local law enforcement agency. Police departments are responsible for designing and administering their local program and determining how tracking devices are distributed.
If you know of a family with a child who has Autism, please pass this information along. Thanks to this funding, there will be one less thing to worry about.