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The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) joins organizations throughout New Jersey in promoting greater understanding of autism on World Autism Awareness Day, Wednesday, April 2, and throughout April, which is National Autism Awareness Month.
An Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that begins before age three and lasts throughout a person's life. ASDs significantly weaken the ability to communicate and interact with others. No two people with an ASD have the same symptoms, and the ability to think and learn varies from gifted to severely challenged. What people with ASD have in common are unusual ways of learning, paying attention or reacting to sensations. ASDs occur in all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups, and are four times more likely to occur in boys than in girls.
“A diagnosis of autism can have profound effect on a family,” said Health and Senior Services Commissioner Heather Howard, “that is why it’s so important for parents and caregivers to be aware of normal developmental milestones. Once a delay is suspected, early evaluation and intervention will help families to better cope and meet the developmental and health-related needs of their child.”
According to data recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in every 94 children in New Jersey has autism, which is the highest rate among the states examined by the CDC in the most comprehensive study of prevalence of autism to date.
Last September New Jersey Governor Jon S. Corzine signed a package of seven bills relating to autism spectrum disorders.
One of these bills established the DHSS Early Intervention Program to address the specific needs of children with autism spectrum disorders and their families. These activities involve developing guidelines for healthcare professionals to use in evaluating infants and toddlers for autism, ensuring the timely referral by health care professionals of infants and toddlers suspected of being on the autism spectrum to the Early Intervention Program and collecting data on statewide autism screening, diagnosis, and intervention programs and systems. DHSS partners include the New Jersey chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics; Autism Speaks; the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network, Inc.; the New Jersey Center for Outreach and Services for the Autism Community, along with academic institutions and healthcare organizations
Another bill transferred the Governor’s Council for Medical Research and Treatment of Autism from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey to the DHSS Division of Family Health. The Council is charged with awarding grants and contracts for research, diagnosis and treatment services for autism. Currently, 11 autism research projects in New Jersey are funded through the Council. Grant funding is also anticipated in July 2008 to establish and enhance services at several sites in New Jersey for children and families affected by autism.
The Governor also signed legislation requiring DHSS, in consultation with the New Jersey Department of Human Services, to maintain an up-to-date registry to include a record of all reported cases of autism that occur in New Jersey; each reported case of autism in which the initial diagnosis is changed, lost, or considered misdiagnosed; and any other information DHSS deems relevant and appropriate to conduct thorough and complete epidemiologic surveys of autism, to enable analysis of this problem, and to plan for and provide services to children with autism and their families.
For more information about autism, visit the CDC Autism Information Center at http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/cdc/index.htm. Public awareness campaigns for World Autism Awareness Day and Autism Awareness Month are being held in New Jersey to help everyone better understand the scope of this health crisis and the need for compassion and acceptance for those living with autism. The following is a list of local events.
Local Autism Awareness Month Events in New Jersey
Wednesday, April 2, 6:30 p.m. – Caldwell Public Library, 268 Bloomfield Ave., Caldwell
A screening of the award-winning documentary, "A Day in the Music: The Ellington Legacy," which examines the extraordinary impact of Duke Ellington's music on autistic students. Kathy Flynn, co-producer of the film, will offer remarks. The program is produced in partnership with The Children's Institute in Verona, and made possible through a pilot project created by INFOLINK, “Welcoming Library Spaces for the Autism Community and Their Families." For further information call (973) 226-2837.
Sunday, April 6, noon to 4 p.m. – La Beaute Salon and Spa, 1311 Route 37 West, Toms River – Fundraiser, with 50 percent off all services. All proceeds donated to Autism Speaks. For further information call (732) 557-6688.
Tuesday, April 15, 6 to 8 p.m. – All TGI Friday’s in New Jersey – Go to TGI Friday's with the entire family and let them know that you are there for Family Autism Night. Please contact your local TGI Friday's for further information. This event is sponsored by the New Jersey Center for Outreach and Services for the Autism Community.
Saturday, April 19, 7:30 p.m. – “Day After Day,” Two Rivers Theater, 21 Bridge Ave., Red Bank – A musical production about autism. Tickets are $20 and can only be purchased through the theatre box office at 732-345-1400. This is not an Autism Speaks event.
Saturday, April 26, 1 p.m. to 2 a.m. – Autism Benefest – The Mad Hatter, 10 E Ocean Ave., Sea Bright – Live music from 1 p.m. to 2 a.m. with acoustic bands during the day to support Autism Speaks’ New Jersey Shore Walk Now for Autism. Activities begin at 1 p.m. and include crafts, games and television dedicated to kids programming. Jonzes Kids at 10 p.m. Adults $10 cover charge, 50/50 raffle, silent auction, tricky tray auction, volleyball competition on the beach, weather permitting. Call the Mad Hatter at (732) 530-7861 to sign up for gluten-free pasta, pizza, beer and cookies.
Sunday, April 27, 3 p.m., Giants Stadium, East Rutherford – New York Red Bulls Autism Awareness Day. To purchase tickets contact Mallory Sullivan @ 201-583-7019, or email Mallory.Sullivan@NewYorkRedBulls.com.
Throughout April – Barnes & Noble Let's Be Friends Storytime – A national event in support of Autism Awareness Month at Barnes & Noble stores throughout April.
Department of Health
P. O. Box 360, Trenton, NJ 08625-0360