Parents of children with Autism say wandering is a huge problem

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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) Wandering is a huge problem in the Autism community, according to the Autism Family Network.

President of AFN, Cathy Martinez, said "Children with more severe and profound autism tend to wander more. They gather toward bodies of water which leads to a high mortality rate."

According to the Autism Safety Coalition, a 2015 study found that 27% of children with developmental disabilities are reported to wander from safe settings each year. In 2015, 31 individuals with autism died after wandering away from a safe setting.

Martinez said her 13-year-old son Jake has wandered away on several occasions. She said, "It's a huge problem for our parents and for the safety of our kids."

A bill that passed unanimously in the senate Thursday called Kevin and Avonte's Bill aims to create proactive programs to prevent wandering and locate missing individuals with forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer's Disease, or developmental disabilities, such as autism, who, due to their condition, wander from safe environments. The bill is named after two kids with autism who wandered away and were found dead.

The bill would allow grants from the Department of Justice to be used by law enforcement agencies and nonprofits for education and training programs to prevent wandering.

Martinez said, "It would help expedite finding the child, timing is crucial for our kids to prevent fatalities or any tragic ending."

The Autism Family Network is already working with the Lincoln Police Department to develop a plan that would help facilitate finding a child with Autism in the event of wandering by finding individual information about that child.

Kevin and Avonte's Bill will now go to the House. Martinez urges people in Nebraska to contact Congressman Fortenberry and tell him you support the bill.