New York, NY (PRWEB) July 25, 2014
Senator 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.
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.
Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders – autism spectrum disorders – caused by a combination of genes and environmental influences. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by communication difficulties, social and behavioral challenges, as well as repetitive behaviors. An estimated 1 in 68 children in the U.S. is on the autism spectrum.
About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization. It is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Mr. Wright is the former vice chairman of General Electric and chief executive officer of NBC and NBC Universal. Since its inception, Autism Speaks has committed more than $500 million dollars to its mission, the majority in science and medical research. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in more than 100 cities across North America. On the global front, Autism Speaks has established partnerships in more than 40 countries on five continents to foster international research, services and awareness. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit AutismSpeaks.org.