Autism’s Deadly Dangers: New Kevin And Avonte’s Bill To Help Prevent Autistic Children From Wandering In Unsafe Environments

By Samantha Finch, Parent Herald July 17, 12:00 am
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Children with autism and other developmental disabilities tend to wander in unsafe environments, a dangerous scenario that sometimes leads to accidents or worse -- their death. This problem is the primary reason behind the creation of the new bill called Kevin and Avonte's Law.

The bill, which was passed unanimously by the U.S. Senate this week, was named after 9-year-old Kevin Curtis Willis and 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo, who both suffered from autism and died when they wandered. Curtis Willis drowned in the Raccoon River in central Iowa in 2008, while Oquendo drowned in the East River in New York City in 2014, according to ABC7.

The Purpose Of Kevin And Avonte's Law

Through Kevin and Avonte's Law, the U.S. Justice Department will provide grants to law enforcement agencies and non-profit organizations. The grants will be spent on education and other programs including training, emergency protocols, giving additional information and resources to first responders, and creating location technology programs that will keep tabs on autism patients who wander ou into unsafe locations, Autism Speaks listed.

Kevin and Avonte's Law was introduced by a bipartisan group of senators such as New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, Iowa Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, and North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis. The U.S. House of Representatives should vote for the bill's approval for it to become a law. The president will then sign it into law.

Autism Children's Attraction To Water

A 2015 study found that 27 percent of children with developmental disabilities such as autism wander away from safe locations annually. That same year, 31 people with autism died after wandering to unsafe environments, 1011 Now reported.

Another study published in 2012 by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that 24 percent of autistic children were in danger of drowning after going missing and 65 percent were vulnerable to traffic injuries and accidents. According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, autistic children wander away when they get overly stimulated by sights, sounds, or other people's activities.

When this happens, the desire to escape propels autistic children to wander away to small or enclosed spaces. Another reason why they wander is because they are interested in a specific location such as bodies of water.

Some autism patients are drawn to water because it soothes and relaxes them. Others get distracted by water's appearance and are "fixated visually" with its patterns, according to neurological conditions specialist and consultant Robyn Steward, BBC reported.

Autistic children's tendency to wander doesn't just harm the patients; it also stresses out their parents and families. Children with autism are drawn to roadways, highways, bright lights, trains, and heavy equipment as well.

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