How Can We Prevent Another Avonte Oquendo Tragedy?

Friday, January 24, 2014

Avonte Oquendo's mother Vanessa Fontaine, with her mother Doris McCoy outside the Riverview School (Beth Fertig/WNYC)

Liz Feld, president of Autism Speaks, examines the realities of caring for autistic children after the tragic news of Avonte Oquendo's death.


Liz Feld

Comments [16]

EP from Brooklyn

It's sad that we can join together in compassion and mourning when a child with autism passes away so tragically, but we so easily get upset when a child with autism "interrupts" our meal at a restaurant (or the line at Target) with grunting, flapping, or spinning.

Jan. 26 2014 08:18 PM
Estelle from Brooklyn

A security guard is supposed to stop any student, autistic or not, from just walking out of a school.

Jan. 24 2014 12:32 PM
Mr. Bad from NYC

Also, just to be clear, I'm not talking about institutionalization with bars on the windows and cell blocks but the special "school" he was attending was not a separate school except in the administrative sense. The Riverview school is a single floor in a building which houses a middle school and high school for normal kids.

Jan. 24 2014 11:09 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

I don't see the lawsuit. Of course the city will settle but a kid with this sort of severe cognitive impairment doesn't belong in a school with other children, obviously. Of course that would not be "PC" and so a severely disabled child is still a "special little snowflake" who should be BOTH protected from all foreseeable and unforeseeable dangers and fully integrated into society so they can thrive and contribute by making us all feel that life isn't unfair, cruel and tragic. Denial is what killed this kid.

Jan. 24 2014 10:56 AM
oscar from ny

Why doesn't the freaking NSA step up and find who is responsible for hacking a child into pieces?..isnt this security?..I feel no urgency by the law to capture a child murderer out here..why is this news being treated like when a female gets raped and everyone is talking about..well she shouldn't have worn that sexy dress to provoke the feel so distraught at the level of complacenty of this news..

Jan. 24 2014 10:53 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Walla, the fact that a person can't speak doesn't mean s/he can't understand. It could be enough just to say Stop.

Jan. 24 2014 10:50 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I know a man who can't speak (don't know if he has autism or not). He recently got a device that lets him push the appropriate button, & it plays a prerecorded message in a synthesized voice. It's made a great difference in his life. I don't know the name of the device, but maybe it could help people who have autism.

Jan. 24 2014 10:46 AM
Saskia from NYC

These kids deserve all the attention they need... as do all kids. Do their providers have access to sufficient resources? Is there sufficient staff? The image of an overworked or underqualified staff is just scary.

Jan. 24 2014 10:46 AM

Is it definite this poor kid wasn't murdered??

Jan. 24 2014 10:44 AM
John from Manhattan

Please explain the kind of school this was. Wasn't it specifically built for children like Avonte? Was is the current state of the investigation into how this happened/who didn't do what they were supposed to do/etc.

Jan. 24 2014 10:43 AM
Robert from Westchester

I work as a psychotherapist with (mostly) high-functioning children on the spectrum (i.e. Asperger's d/o).

I write to let parents know that while there can be tough days, these young people mature to be very appropriate, engaged and productive students and family members. Parents need support of the medical/psychological community for those tough days because there are behavioral issues and instructional obstacles that are daunting.

I urge parents to be steadfast in their advocacy in schools because the schools have to provide the appropriate education for your child. WHat's appropriate differs from child to child. Never waiver in insisting on getting what your child needs. Things get better. Never give up.

Jan. 24 2014 10:43 AM
Jim B from Queens

Has anyone had success with 'Social Stories' to rehearse what to do when lost ?

Jan. 24 2014 10:40 AM
jaime from Ellennville, NY

Why do we not implant tracking devices on children like Avonte and senior citizens with cognitive problems? An alarm can be sent to teachers or parents if they leave gps zone

Jan. 24 2014 10:40 AM

This is a very sad end to the story of a missing boy with special needs. However, based on what I've heard from the media about the story - and I don't know all the details, admittedly - I'm not sure what could've been done.

A door open for 5 minutes is not a critical situation in school. If the security guard had tackled the boy to the ground and broken the boy's arm, would the family still sue the school for damages? I know how difficult it can be to care for special needs children, but what else could the school have done short of physically hold onto the boy?

Maybe other families with autistic kids should look into digital trackers, such as on a cell phone, to help locate their kids if they go missing.

Jan. 24 2014 10:26 AM
antonio from baySide

Is there any information in regards to the time after Avonte left his school? I know it is possible to get to the river without a lot of contact with people because that's how LIC is; But Avonte was severely Autistic, from what I understand wouldn't the outside, unsupervised world seem beyond chaotic to him? Basically someone had to notice him, because of those factors...

This story is so heartbreaking...

Jan. 24 2014 10:08 AM
oscar from ny

Oquendos murder was a ritual can anyone not say anything about the coincidence of this boy being alive and than turning up dead..what type of city or community are we living with? Killers ?

Jan. 24 2014 10:03 AM

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