Where is Avonte? NYPD May Scale Back

14-year-old non-verbal autistic boy, Avonte Oquendo, has been missing for 19 days. The search for Avonte has been quite extensive, using infrared cameras, voice-overs of his mother calling out for him, posters, announcements, etc., but to no avail. So what now? The New York Police Department is still continuing to search for the boy, interviewing those who have been previously arrested for abuse of children under the age of 16, and asking for anyone who has any information to speak up. But they are scaling back. Police Commissioner Ray Kelley comments, “

“We’re still devoting a lot of resources to the search. We’ll have to make adjustments as far as the deployment of the amount of resources that we have. We’ll do that some time during the week if we’re unsuccessful. Obviously we ask for the public’s help with any information at all.”[1]

The search team requests that if anyone has ANY information to visit the Crime Stoppers Website, or text the information to 274637(CRIMES) then enter TIP577.

To conclude our series on steps to follow when dealing with children, especially those with special needs, are our “Lost Child Procedures”

  • Staff should report missing children immediately to supervisor
    • Supervisor will notify child care service administrative staff immediately. If the child is not found after initial search of immediate area is done then City and State agencies including the Police Department, New York City Children’s Services (formerly ACS), New York State Central Register for Child Abuse Maltreatment and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will be notified.
    • A missing child incident is reported to parents of child immediately by SKHOV Administration
    • Initiating and carrying out the search for the child.
      • The members of search team are SKHOV staff and administration
      • Search area parameters, duration and scope will be identified and determined based on each situation
      • Required staff to child ratios for remaining children shall be maintained by assistant or supervisors providing coverage.
      • Police will be notified to assist in search areas incorporating subways and busses when those modes of transportation are involved.
      • Search parties will communicate every 5 minutes by cell phone or intercom in school.
      • Search area expansion and including emergency services personnel in search will occur if the child is not found after initial search of building and immediate surroundings are not successful.
      • Remaining groups.
        • Will stay in contact with search party by cell phone or intercom system in school.
        • Groups will determine whether to remain at the activity/trip destination or return to the child care service based on instructions from SKHOV administration
        • At cessation of search.
          • Retrieved children shall be assessed by the Educational Director and will include:
            • A determination of the need for treatment for any perceived injury or need for medical intervention.

[1] “Gothamist” NYPD may reduce cops searching for missing boy Avonte Oquendo. 22 Oct 2013. Web. < http://gothamist.com/2013/10/22/nypd_may_reduce_cops_searching_for.php>

Avonte Oquendo’s Mother Speaks Out

What would you do if your non-verbal autistic 14-year-old child went missing after running away from school? That’s what happened to Jessica Fontaine, mother of Avonte Oquendo. The search for Avonte has entered its third week, and Fontaine just wants her little boy back. She spoke out on WLNY, pleading for the return of her son.


“If someone has my son, please be kind to him and let him go. Put him in a public place full of people and let him go. Walk away.” [i]


The entire community is dedicated to finding Avonte. Search groups continue to look each day for the teenager, and Fontaine wants her son to know that she loves him, “Mommy loves you, the family is here for you, and we’re going to find you.”


We’ve been providing information on daily procedures to take regarding children with special needs. Most schools go on off-site field trips with their students, and below are some procedures to follow:


  • Staff will be made familiar with the destination location prior event/trip occurrence
  • Parental approval is recorded in writing on signed permission slips for their child to participate in the event/trip
  • Supervision ratios are increased by assigning auxiliary staff or the use of volunteers that are cleared
  • The accountability procedures are as follows:
    • Attendance taken prior to start of activity or leaving child service
    • Periodic monitoring and re-taking attendance
    • Trip attendance log
    • Buddy system
    • Assignment of small groups of children to specific staff/volunteer supervisors
    • Child identifiers (name tags and t-shirts)
    • Areas of refuse/regrouping established beforehand

[i] “CBS News” Avonte Oquendo’s mother: If you have my son, let him go. 21 Oct 2013. Web. <http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57608516/avonte-oquendos-mother-if-you-have-my-son-let-him-go/>

The Search Continues for Avonte Oquendo

Yesterday, Sunday October 20, 2013, family members and members of the community gathered for a search for 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo. Just to recap: Avonte is a non-verbal autistic boy, who was last seen running out of his school in Queens on Friday, October 4th. On Friday we posted some of the daily procedures taken at Shema Kolainu- Hear Our Voices, a school and center for children with autism in partnership with ICare4Autism. Below are some of the bussing and release of children procedures all teachers and staff follow each day:



  • When putting a student on the bus, wait by the door until that student is seated by the matron and seat belted into his seat
  • Students are only released to authorized bus personnel or the student’s parent/guardian
  • If a student is to be dismissed to someone other than a parent or bus personnel, the school must have written consent prior to dismissal
  • To ensure safety and security of students, staff releasing children from school must maintain a file of the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of persons authorized to pick up each student in your care
  • You should only release a child to a person for whom you have written consent by the custodial parent
  • NEVER honor a telephone authorization unless there is a prior written consent by the custodial parent on file

Heartbreaking Search for Avonte Oquendo Reaches 2-Week Mark

You’ve seen it on the news, you’ve heard about it on the radio, you’ve seen posters put up all over New York City. The search for 14 year old Avonte Oquendo has reached its 2-week mark. Autistic and non-verbal, this boy was last seen running out of his school two weeks ago today.

Police, family members, and the entire community are determined to find the whereabouts of Avonte. As he has a passion for trains, the police department has been searching all train stations, both abandoned and in use, in hopes of success. The search has now spread to surrounding areas of New York. Yesterday, police started using a van that can detect body heat through an infrared camera, in case Avonte was hiding. Police vans are also projecting his mother’s voice over a loud speaker asking him to come toward the vehicle and back home.

School safety among any school is important. School safety at a school for children with special needs…is crucial. Shema Kolainu has a strict list of procedures for teachers and staff to follow each day. Below are some of the daily procedures we follow:


  • Attendance is taken each morning by all teachers and teacher assistants and reported to their supervisor.
  • Staff to child ratios are maintained from the arrival of the first child at the start of the day to the departure of the last child at the end of the day
  • The primary duty of all staff is to actively monitor the safety and behavior of all students from the time they enter the school building until the time they go home.
  • When walking through a doorway with a student staff should always watch the student walk through the door completely before closing the door behind you.
  • Students are only released to authorized bus personnel or the student’s parent/guardian. If the student is to be dismissed to someone other than a parent or bus personnel, the school must have written consent prior to dismissal.

Join Us At 4:30 pm EST for a Google Hangout!


Today, October 15, 2013 at 4:30pm EST, Dr. Weinstein, Founder and CEO of ICare4Autism, Ari Knoll, Esq., Head of Legal Aid of ICare4Autism, Dr. Stephen Shore, Advisory Board Member of ICare4Autism, and Sharie Manon, Director of Strategic Alliances of ICare4Autism will be in a Google Hangout to discuss the recent disappearance of 14-year-old non-verbal autistic boy, Avonte Oquendo. The group will address safety procedures that should always be in place for all children, especially those with special needs. The Google Hangout will be moderated by Kathleen B. Tehrani of AutismBrainstorm.

Let’s Help Bring Avonte Home

14-year-old non-verbal autistic boy, Avonte Oquendo, has been missing since last week.

The New York City Police Department is asking that if ANYONE has any information on Avonte’s whereabouts, to please come forward. Imagine how frightened Avonte must be in a strange location and unable to verbalize his fear.

Avonte’s parents say he loves trains, and the police have checked over 400 train stations, tunnels, abandoned stations and bathrooms for the teenager, but to no avail.

At Chief of Department Phil Banks’ request, if you have any information, call the department’s hotline at 800-577-TIPS. Any information is useful, and every lead will be followed.

Roc Conti, Avonte’s cousin spoke out, “If somebody does have him, release him, because he can’t even tell on you. Write a note, put it in his pocket, write a note on his forehead, send him off.” [i]

There is a substantial reward for information provided on Avonte Oquendo’s current location, but the most important thing is getting this boy home safe to his family.

[i] “ABC News” NYPD asks for help in finding Avonte Oquendo. 14 Oct 2013. Web. < http://abclocal.go.com/wabc/story?section=news/local/new_york&id=9276035>

SKHOV recovering from Hurricane Sandy


Shema Kolainu - Hear Our Voices

Shema Kolainu - Hear Our Voices

Shema Kolainu – Hear Our Voices is recovering from Hurricane Sandy. Our School & Center was closed Monday and Tuesday October 29th and 30th. We will be open again tomorrow Wednesday October 31st. We are eager to have all of our kids back in school as it can be difficult for children with autism to have a change in routines. With Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) it is important to have continuity and cross-over of learning and skills from the school setting to home setting. When this pattern is disrupted it can be difficult for the child and family to get back on track. Our staff is ready with open arms to welcome the children back to school and help them through the transitions and changes in routines.