FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 15, 2010
As part of national Autism Awareness Month in April, the Governor recently issued a state proclamation on March 31, declaring the same observance for Texas.
This declaration, although seemingly small, might make a significant difference in a child's life. The Proclamation states, "Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lifelong disability, typically appearing in the first three years of life and potentially resulting in significant impairment of an individual's ability to communicate, understand social interactions, and develop appropriate interactive behaviors."
Last December, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that the prevalence of autism had risen to one in every 110 births in the United States and almost one in 70 boys. Further, it is estimated that the cost of caring for each child with autism ranges from $3.5 million to $5 million annually, and nationally costs $90 billion a year! However, early intervention can lead to remarkable breakthroughs, and over time, reduce costs and treatment frequency.
Although there is no cure for autism, much has been done to increase access to therapy that can vastly improve the lives of those struggling with ASD.
Extensive evidence indicates that when young children with ASD receive proper diagnoses and are provided intensive therapy early, their long-term outcomes dramatically improve.
Most related studies report that with the proper level of early intervention, about 40 to 50 percent of children with ASD can enter school on time and do not require special education. Another 30 to 40 percent of children with ASD were shown to make substantial gains from early intervention.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that pediatricians regularly screen children for ASD at 18-, 24- and 30-month regular check-ups, but knowing what services are available once a diagnosis is made remains a struggle for most parents.
Although the state has worked hard to address the needs of those with ADS and improve access to services available to families, much more needs to be done; and the first step, the most important step, is spreading awareness.
Since 1987, my colleagues and I have continued to implement policies aimed at bettering the lives of those with ASD. One of my proudest achievements as an elected official has been authoring the provisions in state law requiring group health benefit plans to cover services for children with ASD.
However, my colleagues and I have not done enough; we have yet to get to the root of Autism Awareness Month, spreading the word. For that, we need you.
I hope that this April all Texans will take the time to find out more about autism.
When one of every 110 babies born has autism, there is hardly a Texas family who is not touched by this condition. I hope you will get involved in local community events aimed at autism education. We need to help children and their parents struggling to find services, and we need to ensure that those parents know what symptoms to look for.
If diagnosticians are able to properly diagnose children early and get them help, then those children will stand a better chance of finding employment as adults and getting the proper services necessary to incorporate into the workforce and more importantly, lead a full, healthy life.
Early intervention can mean the difference between a lifetime of dependency on services or a lifetime of independent living. There may not be a cure for autism, but Texas children with ADS deserve a chance to flourish in society like everyone else.
Staff Member Sara Gonzalez handles health issues for Senator Lucio and can be reached at 512-463-0127.