ROCHESTER, NY (WXXI) – The same night a wake was held for a Rochester teen with autism who died after walking away from his school unnoticed, a federal measure to pay for tracking devices for vulnerable children and adults passed in both houses of Congress.
The legislation was included in a massive omnibus spending package that President Trump is now threatening to veto.
The measure would allow law enforcement agencies to install software to track the location of individuals with dementia, autism, or other disorders, who wear bracelets connected to a radio frequency tracking system.
Rachel Rosner, director of education at AutismUp, says the legislation has provisions to protect people’s privacy.
“And while we know it won’t be right for some people, for the families that it will help, it will absolutely allow them to literally and figuratively sleep well at night.”
Rosner said Trevyan Rowe, whose body was found in the Genesee River three days after his disappeared from School # 12, was not the first local person with autism to go missing.
“I know many, many, many parents who spent years doing things like chasing their children up and down the neighborhood, sleeping in the hallway in front of their child’s bedroom door, locking their house down from the inside and outside just to protect their child.”
The tracking system, Rosner said, will enable families and police to find individuals who wander away within seconds or minutes versus hours or days.
The measure, known as “Kevin and Avonte’s Law”, would also provide funding for training for law enforcement, schools, and other institutions that care for individuals with developmental disorders and dementia, to prevent individuals from wandering off.
The law is named for two boys with autism who died after wandering.
Nine year old Kevin Curtis Wills wandered from home, slipped into Iowa’s Raccoon River and drowned in 2008. Fourteen year old Avonte Oquendo wandered away from his school and drowned in New York City’s East River in 2014.