January 22, 2008

State of Alabama
Press Release: Lt. Governor Folsom (2007-11)

Statement by Lt. Governor Jim Folsom Jr. Regarding Meeting of the Autism Task Force of Alabama

Thank you for allowing me to be here with you today and to commend you for the work you have done and the great work that you assuredly will do in the future.

I want to say a special thank you to the members of the Autism task force for their leadership and vision on such a vital issue.

As Lieutenant Governor, I am proud that Alabama has joined the 27 other states who have similar programs in place.

But as we well know, every bold initiative only comes about when someone leads the charge.

Something like the Autism task force does not happen by natural occurrence or by accident.

And make no mistake about it, this movement would not have occurred by simply magnifying the issue of Autism.

The formation of this group took vision, leadership, and a great amount of skill to make it a reality.

And for all these reasons - the people of Alabama owe a debt of gratitude to Representative Cam Ward. (Applause)

To those of you here, I would simply say that we need your efforts now more than ever.

The needs of those affected by Autism are growing exponentially.

6,480-7,020 children between the ages of 3-21 have autism and autism related disorders.

But bear in mind that number only indicates diagnosed cases. Many more continue to go undiagnosed.

But as we all know, there have been great strides made in diagnosing Autism.

According to the Autism Society of America, more children will be diagnosed with autism this year than with AIDS, diabetes & cancer combined.

That truly is a staggering statistic.

The AMA tells us that 1 in 150 children is diagnosed with Autism.

In Alabama in 1990, there were a total of 68 children in public schools with autism.

In December 2000 there were 849 cases of autism in Alabama public schools.

From 1990 until 2006 there was an increase of over 3000% in diagnosed autism in our public school system.

While troubling on one hand, we should see these statistics in a positive light because it's hard to go to war without knowing what you are fighting.

And we certainly know that our task is immense - but so is our commitment.

That Alabama Autism Task Force is approaching this endeavor in a wise and measured manner.

You have identified the areas that will have the most immediate impact on those who are diagnosed and their families.
The five areas you have identified as priorities are Health Care, Systems of Care, Education, Intervention Services, and Family Support.

This focus will allow current and anticipated resources to be allocated where they can do the most good.

These priorities address the immediate and physical needs of those with Autism while working to affect change in the society regarding these disorders.

And perhaps most importantly, you have chosen to focus on serving the families of those diagnosed - Because as we all know, a major medical condition affects more than just the patient.

Through you efforts, those who suffer and their families will know that they are not in this fight alone - but please know that you, the committed group here today, are not alone either.

We will work hand in hand with you to identify any and all avenues of assistance for Alabama's Autism Task Force.

I look forward to continuing to work with you on this vital issue and look forward to being with you again very soon.


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