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In October of 2013, New York City came together in a massive search for 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo who ran from his school and vanished. Tragically, his body was discovered three months later in the East River. Avonte’s story broke the hearts of all of us in the autism community, and beyond.

Soon after Avonte’s death, Senator Charles Schumer’s office reached out to Lori McIlwain of NAA for assistance in drafting legislation to help prevent this type of tragedy from happening to another child.

Schumer’s legislation titled “Avonte’s Law Act of 2015” addresses urgent safety issues affecting individuals with autism in this country every day.

If passed, Avonte’s Law would authorize $50 million over five years to be distributed by the Attorney General with the purpose of reducing the risk of injury and death related to wandering, as well as safeguarding individuals with disabilities during interactions with law enforcement.

Funding would be used to provide:

  • Education and resources to law enforcement agencies, first responders, schools, clinicians and the public to reduce the risk of wandering by individuals with autism or other disabilities.
  • Facilitate effective communication with individuals who have communication-related disabilities, including the use of assistive communication techniques and technology.
  • Training and emergency protocols for school administrators, staff and families.
  • Response tools and training for law enforcement and search-and-rescue agencies, including tracking technology, reverse 911 technology, assistive communication technology, Endangered Missing Advisories and Federal search-and-rescue guidelines for special needs children.
  • Response tools and training to law enforcement agencies in order to recognize and respond to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
  • Establish standards and best practices relating to the use of tracking technology.


The bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee and needs our support. Please take just a few minutes today to call or write your Senators and ask them to co-sponsor bill number S. 163 – Avonte’s Law Act of 2015.

To find your Senator’s contact information, click here and select your state.

For information and resources on autism-related wandering, visit