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April is National Autism Awareness Month in New Mexico, Nation

PHOTO: Efforts are under way to build support for a bill in the U.S. Senate that would help to reduce the risk of injury and death related to wandering by those with autism. Photo credit: U.S. Department of Labor.
PHOTO: Efforts are under way to build support for a bill in the U.S. Senate that would help to reduce the risk of injury and death related to wandering by those with autism. Photo credit: U.S. Department of Labor.
April 13, 2015

ALBUQUERQUEE, N.M. – April is Autism Awareness Month, and one focus this year is the dangers of children with autism who engage in wandering.

Sarah Baca, executive director of the New Mexico Autism Society, says children on the autistic spectrum often have no fear and don't realize the consequences of going off on their own.

"Something could stimulate the child so bad, so they will wander off, and oftentimes they don't see anything wrong with that, they don't see the fear associated with that," she explains.

It's estimated that nearly half of children on the autism spectrum engage in wandering.

In an effort to reduce the dangers associated with wandering, the U.S. Senate is considering a bill to provide funding for police departments to purchase equipment that can help locate people with autism.

Wendy Fournier, president of the National Autism Association, says the legislation also calls for training for law enforcement agencies to better recognize and respond to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

"It's really easy for a person with a communication disorder to come across as being uncooperative to the police,” Fournier says. “So the police really need some training to start recognizing autism and other cognitive disorders."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in 68 children in the United States is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.


Troy Wilde, Public News Service - NM