AUCD Statement on Autism Awareness Month

March 28, 2008


George S. Jesien, PhD
Former Executive Director
301-588-8252
gjesien@aucd.org

Silver Spring, MD (April 1, 2008)

The Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) joins with the autism community in promoting awareness about Autism this April during Autism Awareness Month and throughout the year. The prevalence of Autism and related spectrum disorders has increased dramatically in recent years. The National Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that this developmental disability now affects one in every 150 children.

AUCD, a nonprofit organization that promotes and supports a nationwide network of 122 university-based interdisciplinary centers and programs, is actively working to advance policy and practices for individuals with autism and related disabilities and their families by conducting basic and applied research, providing training to the next generation of educational, health and allied health professionals and providers, and providing exemplary direct services and supports for individuals and their families.

There is no known specific cause or cure for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) to date. However, experts unanimously agree that early identification and intervention is key to achieving the best possible outcomes for individuals with ASD and other developmental disabilities. AUCD is working in partnership with the Learn the Signs. Act Early. campaign at CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) to help coordinate Act Early Regional Summits to bring together key state leaders from the health, education, and social services sectors interested in early intervention to provide a forum to share information and insights on the opportunities, challenges, and barriers for families and children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and related developmental disabilities in the early identification, assessment, diagnosis, and intervention areas.

"Clearly what we are hearing from state leaders and families is that children are not being identified early enough and once they are diagnosed, they have to wait far too long to receive the appropriate interventions," said AUCD Executive Director George Jesien, Ph.D. "There are pressing needs for trained professionals to better serve children and adults with autism with the latest evidence-based information and effective practices."

In addition to the need for early identification and intervention, adults with ASD face long waiting lists and many barriers in obtaining appropriate community-based services and supports to enable them to participate fully in society. AUCD is working with others in the disability community to educate the U.S. Congress about the need for a stronger federal investment into community based educational, transition, employment, and residential services and family supports. AUCD fully supports bipartisan, bicameral legislation (S. 937/H.R. 1881) that would provide resources focusing on interdisciplinary training of professionals and providers in the area of autism, provide technical assistance, and disseminate information on effective community-based, interventions, and services. The Expanding the Promise to Individuals with Autism Act was introduced by Senators Clinton (D-NY) and Allard (R-CO) in the Senate and Representatives Doyle (D-PA) and Smith (R-NJ) in the House last Spring. AUCD urges Congress to pass this critical legislation as soon as possible. Dr. Jesien recently stated, "We know that Congress only has so many days left for legislative work and that a great deal of energy is being taken up with the presidential campaigns, but the children and families throughout the country cannot wait for November. It is important for Congress to address this critical need now."

 

About AUCD

The Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) is a membership organization that supports and promotes a national network of university-based interdisciplinary programs. Network members consist of:

  • 67 University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD), funded by the Administration on Developmental Disabilities (ADD)
  • 34 Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) Programs funded by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB)
  • 19 Intellectual and Developmental Disability Research Centers (IDDRC), most of which are funded by the National Institute for Child Health and Development (NICHD)

These programs serve and are located in every U.S. state and territory and are all part of universities or medical centers. A full directory and more information are provided online at www.aucd.org.

 

About Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are a group of developmental disabilities defined by significant impairments in social interaction and communication and the presence of unusual behaviors and interests. The thinking and learning abilities of people with ASDs can vary - from gifted to severely challenged. ASD begins before the age of 3 and lasts throughout a person's life. It occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups and is four times more likely to occur in boys than girls. For more information about autism and early warning signs, see CDC's Autism Information Center and Learn the Signs Act Early Campaign.

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