Assemblywoman Donna Simon said World Autism Day is an opportunity to increase the dialogue on how to better understand and positively affect this global health crisis which has been increasing at an alarming rate. Simon is a prime sponsor of AJR-33, which designates April 2nd of each year as “World Autism Awareness Day.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects 1 in 68 children nationwide and 1 in 45 children in New Jersey. It’s the fastest-growing developmental disability in the U.S. While more prevalent in boys, ASD occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. Early detection and early intervention are vital to getting children and their families the help and support they need.
“We are all touched by autism, whether it affects our family, neighbors or friends,” said Simon, R-Somerset, Hunterdon, Mercer and Middlesex. “Partnering with parents, pediatricians, neuro-developmental experts, child study teams, educators, therapists and researchers proves to be the most successful approach to helping a child or adult with the disorder.”
Simon, an Honorary Board Member of the Organization for Autism Research (OAR) and strong advocate for autism, sponsors several initiatives. The first bill, A-272, requires health benefits coverage for diagnosing and treating autism and other developmental disabilities. The second, A-1636, requires charges to be filed against any public school employee who has bullied a special needs student. Non-tenured employees will be terminated. It also provides whistleblower protections to an aide or other education professional who witnesses such bullying. The bills are waiting for committee action.
Simon is also working with community leaders on next steps for children with autism and other developmental disabilities after they age out from high school and hopes to collaborate with community colleges to offer a certification course for paraprofessionals who take care of children/adults with special needs.