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For Immediate Release:
October 8, 2009

For Information, Contact:
Pam Ronan, 609-292-3703

TRENTON – The New Jersey Adults with Autism Task Force today released its report describing the needs of adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and presenting both short and long-term recommendations designed to address these needs to Governor Jon S. Corzine and the New Jersey Legislature.The New Jersey Adults with Autism Task Force, created by legislation (A4057/S2559) signed on September 12, 2007 by Governor Jon Corzine (PL 2007, c. 173), charged the task force with studying, evaluating and making recommendations intended to meet the needs of adults associated with the significant challenges presented by autism.

“The work of this task force will serve the future of our state as we seek to support the efforts of adults with autism in living as independently as possible and achieving their own personal best,” said Governor Corzine. “New Jersey will continue working with individuals with autism and their families in an effort to meet this challenge.”

This legislation created a 13 member task force comprised of an adult with autism, family members of individuals with autism, advocates and professionals in the field of autism, representatives from Autism New Jersey, formerly The New Jersey Center for Outreach and Services for the Autism Community (COSAC); Autism Speaks; and the Asperger Syndrome Education Network (ASPEN).  The members also include representatives of the Governor's Council for Medical Research and Treatment of Autism and the state Departments of Human Services, Health and Senior Services, Education, and Labor and Workforce Development.

Deborah Cohen, Ph.D., Director of the Governor’s Council on the Prevention of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, served as chair of the task force on behalf of Department of Human Services (DHS) Commissioner Jennifer Velez.  “I would like to thank the Adults with Autism Task Force for dedicating their time and experience to this important effort,” said Commissioner Velez. “This report provides an opportunity for renewed focus on Autism Spectrum Disorders as well as the broad range of issues that surround the entire disabilities community.  The task force members will be a wonderful partner in this effort.”

The Adults with Autism Task Force report includes, among its many findings, that adults with autism require individualized support in transitioning from the educational system into adulthood, life-skills training, day programs to attend or job training and placement, health care, housing, transportation and assistance with legal issues.  Primary among these is establishing a centralized Office of Autism Services to oversee services for adults with ASD and their families.  View the
 report on the DHS website.

"As an adult on the autism spectrum from New Jersey, I'm proud that my state is recognizing that autism supports are a lifespan issue," said Ari Ne'eman, the President of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and the task force's vice chair. "This report recognizes that Autistic adults are not some new phenomenon. We deserve to be seen as full members of our local communities and more effort must be undertaken to ensure our civil and human rights are realized."

Autism is a lifelong disability and is the most common condition in a group of developmental disorders known as ASDs.  Other ASDs include Asperger Syndrome, Rett Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified.  These disorders are characterized by limits in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and unusual repetitive activities or severely limited interests. 

“The release of this report signifies not only the recognition that New Jersey has identified the need to focus on the fact that 1 in 94 individuals are affected by ASD, but that there is now a framework for the Legislature and administrators to address the lifelong challenges they face,” said Linda Walder Fiddle, Executive Director of The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation, a national organization focusing on adults with ASD. “I have been working on a legislative package with Speaker Roberts to address key issues identified by the task force aimed at improving the administrative and service systems so that individuals with ASD and their families can attain the support they need throughout the lifespan,” added Walder Fiddle.

As part of their study and evaluation of the needs of adults with autism, the task force conducted six public forums in March 2009.  The forums were held at Bergen Community College, Paramus; Monmouth County Library, Manalapan; Burlington County Human Services, Mount Holly; Hudson Community College, Jersey City; Cumberland County Library, Bridgeton; and the Historic Courthouse in Flemington.  Testimony from the forums, as well as communications submitted to the task force, was used in the development of these findings and recommendations.

DHS provides a variety of services and supports to people with ASD as well as other types of disabilities.  The Division of Disability Services’ Office of Information and Assistance Services is a single point of entry for callers to access information regarding the state human services system.  Certified Information and referral Specialists assist New Jersey residents with any disability-related need by calling 888-285-3036 or 609-292-7800 or (TTY) 609-292-1210.

The DHS’ Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) provides day services, residential programs and other services and supports to adults with autism and other developmental disabilities.  DDD estimates that 23 percent of the almost 40,000 people to whom the division currently provides services have an ASD diagnosis.  DDD makes determinations for eligibility for its services.  DDD information is available by calling 800-832-9173.

Governor Corzine will be attending Autism New Jersey’s 27th Annual Conference on Friday, October 9th at the Atlantic City Convention Center, Atlantic City, to make an announcement regarding the recommendations offered in this Task Force report. His remarks will begin at 12:45 p.m.



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