April 7, 2011

State of Alabama
Press Release: Mental Health, Department of

APRIL IS NATIONAL AUTISM AWARENESS MONTH

MONTGOMERY – The Alabama Interagency Autism Coordinating Council and the Autism Society of Alabama are partners in promoting National Autism Awareness Month. The month-long campaign held annually in April, sponsored since the 1970s by the Autism Society of America, seeks to highlight the urgent need for awareness about autism spectrum disorder.

Autism Awareness Month activities kicked off with the Proclamation signing by Governor Bentley and will continue through April. Autism Matters: Legislative Day will take place on April 21 beginning at 10:00 a.m. on the State House steps. Families living with ASD and supporters of the ASD community from across the state will rally and urge lawmakers to support key issues and concerns including (a) continued support for the AIACC and their work towards a statewide comprehensive system of care for individuals with ASD and their families, (b) maintained funding to the Alabama Department of Education for special education services, and (c) improved private and public insurance coverage for ASD services.

An Alabama Autism Safety Campaign was also kicked off. The first initiative in the campaign is utilizing A Child is Missing, a nation-wide program that is free to all law enforcement agencies. With 92 percent of parents reporting their children ASD have a tendency to wander, resources to combat the occurrences are essential. A Child is Missing is one of the fastest and most effective programs law enforcement can activate in the first critical minutes after a child is reported to be missing. In fact, when a registered law enforcement agency calls A Child is Missing, 1000 phone calls can be generated within 60 seconds.

All are encouraged to participate in ASA Walks for Autism 2011 hosted in more than 15 locations around the state. Walk proceeds benefit ASA, which works to improve the quality of life of persons with ASD and their families through education, advocacy and support.

ASD is a group of complex neurological disorders typically present by three years of age, characterized by atypical development in socialization and communication, and often accompanied by unusual behavior and interests. The latest report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2009) states one in every 110 children and one in every 70 boys in the United States has an ASD diagnosis. This national statistic reflects a 57 percent increase in four years and underscores the need to regard ASD as an urgent public health concern. Even more alarming is that over the same four-year period, ASD rates in Alabama increased by a startling 82 percent.

In the midst of this uncertain future, the AIACC and ASA are leading a remarkable collaboration by a diverse group of over 200 stakeholders all committed to a single goal – improving the lives of Alabamians with ASD and their families. Dr. Caroline Gomez, state autism coordinator, stated “As they wait and cope, these parents continue to wake every morning to the challenge of the new day accompanied by the faces of their beautiful children. Some days end with laughter and a light heart and others with tears, anguish and a burdened heart. These parents epitomize courage, perseverance and selflessness as they continue their remarkably challenging journeys.”

Unfortunately, the need continues to far exceed the available resources, leaving many individuals with ASD and their families in programmatic, financial and personal crisis. The challenge for the AIACC and ASA collaborators is then to create a comprehensive interagency system of care for individuals with ASD and their families that will improve outcomes, quality of life, and independence of individuals with ASD, while also mitigating the potentially staggering financial and personal costs to families.

RESOURCES

To learn more about the Alabama Autism Interagency Coordinating Council, visit www.autism.alabama.gov.

For more information about Autism Awareness activities in the state of Alabama, contact the Autism Society of Alabama or visit www.autism-alabama.org.

For more information about autism in general, visit the Autism Society of America at www.autism-society.org.

For more information about A Child is Missing, visit www.achildismissing.org.


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  • For more information, visit http://mh.alabama.gov
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