Saturday, April 14, 2007

Autism Urgency - Assemblymember Tim Gordon's "Better Focus on Autism Now Act of 2007"

Assemblymember Tim Gordon
108th Assembly District
New York State Assembly

Some politicians truly understand autism and the magnitude of the problems it poses to autistic persons, their families and society and some don't. Some take action while others wring their hands ineffectively. Assemblymember Tim Gordon of the New York State Assembly's 108th district is one who understands and is taking action. He is sponsoring legislation entitled the "Better Focus on Autism Now Act of 2007" The title of the proposed legislation itself conveys a needed sense of urgency. The proposed legislation, as described by Assemblymember Gordon in an article he authored for "The Record" attached hereafter is comprehensive in scope but two points in particular drew my attention because they are so seldom mentioned in autism discussions or proposed legislation - expand residential services for persons with autism and improve training and development opportunities for agency and voluntary sector employees who serve persons with autism. These latter two areas are also in critical need of being addressed here in New Brunswick

Gordon: We better focus on autism


The number of children diagnosed with autism is rapidly increasing. According to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one in every 150 U.S. children has an autism spectrum disorder. These numbers are startling - and this disability is affecting more and more families. Twenty years ago autism was a very rare case. Today autism is becoming a frightening statistic in every community.
April is Autism Awareness Month and I encourage everyone to take this opportunity to learn more about this disability.

Recently, the untimely, tragic death of Jonathan Carey, an autistic child from Bethlehem, has made clear the need for strong measures to protect special needs children and do whatever it takes to prevent negligence. If there is a benefit from this tragedy, it is that Jonathan's parents, Michael and Lisa Carey are remarkable advocates, who are relentlessly fighting for a positive change to come from their family's loss.

In light of this, I am sponsoring legislation (A.6096), which would create the "Better Focus on Autism Now Act of 2007." This all-encompassing bill would:
- Support research on treatment for persons with autism;
- Improve public awareness of the nature of autism;
- Expand the early identification of whether children may be diagnosed with autism;
Better Focus on Autism Now Act of 2007. and
- Expand residential and other services for persons with autism within the state;
- Improve training and development opportunities for agency and voluntary sector employees who serve persons with autism; ;
- Create a cohesive and coordinated approach to serving the autistic population within the numerous state agencies.

The Assembly also recently held a public hearing to raise awareness. The hearing was meant to explore the educational, medicinal and support services available that can help those with autism lead healthier, more productive lives. I also joined my colleagues from the Legislature, Senator Joe Bruno and Senator Neil Breslin along with the Carey family at a recent press conference calling for an investigation into the Carey incident and increased penalties following the abuse and death of Jonathan Carey (A.7227).

I also support legislation to enact "PJ's Law" which directs the commissioner of education to require school bus drivers and school bus attendants on a bus transporting a child or children with a disability to complete training, twice a year, on the special needs of children with disability (A.1817).

With Autism Awareness Month upon us, I can't imagine a better time to encourage everyone to find out more about autism and how you can help a child with the disability. Earlier this month, the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at the University at Albany opened in a new, larger location. With 4,000 square feet at 1535 Western Ave. in Albany, the new center is three times larger than the previous location in the university's social science building. The center offers three training to local parents and educators in a 12-county area. It is funded with state and federal grants and no fees are charged to parents and educators. The center offer up-to-the-minute education for those caring for children with autism.

Ultimately, it is my hope that with the increased awareness, and fundamental reforms within the Office of Mental Retardation and Development Disabilities that other parents will never suffer the pain the Carey family had to endure when they lost their son and brother.

If you have any questions or would like more information about autism services in our area, call my office at 455-5777.

Tim Gordon is the assemblyman for the 108th Legislative District.

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