April 2 was acknowledged as World Autism Recognition Day, and all of April is now, officially Autism Recognition Month. El Dorado County’s Board of Supervisors adopted the formal proclamation early in its meeting following a presentation by Recorder-Clerk, Registrar of Voters and Veterans Affairs Director Bill Shultz.
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Recent surveys suggest that 1 in 50 school age children “are affected by autism spectrum disorder (ASD),” according to Autism Speaks, a world-wide science and advocacy organization. Although the official U.S. government’s data show the rate to be 1 in 88 American children, that number is thought to be an “underestimate,” the organization writes.
Schultz began his presentation on a personal note saying his 12-year-old grandson has a severe autistic condition and said that having a member with autism can be “quite a chore for any family.”
The state legislature created Senate Bill 946 which took effect in July 2012. Known as the California Autism Insurance Mandate, SB 946 essentially requires health insurance companies to cover Applied Behavior Analysis services to clients with ASD. Schultz noted that “SB 946 is the right one.”
What is Autism?
“Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. They include autistic disorder, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome.”
Although its exact causes are not known, research has determined that autism might result from a combination of “autism risk genes” and environmental factors. The body’s immune system is also being studied for its likely involvement in the disorders.
Autism Recognition Month is characterized by an international effort to “Light it up Blue,” led by Autism Speaks. The group suggests individuals, government entities and private businesses change out white light bulbs and replace them with blue bulbs to commemorate both the world awareness day and the entire month.
“In 2012, more than 3,000 iconic buildings and landmarks in over 50 countries on six continents turned their lights blue in commemoration of World Autism Awareness,” said a pamphlet Schultz handed out. He also gave board members small, blue pins in the shape of a jigsaw puzzle piece and explained that it represents the “piece of the missing puzzle to solve autism.”
Citing the Centers for Disease Control statistics, the board’s proclamation notes that the CDC now estimates that autism has risen to the level of a “public health emergency warranting immediate attention.”
Autism Speaks considers Applied Behavior Analysis treatment as the best science-based methodology for dealing with ASD. The group’s Website states:
“ABA involves a set of procedures for systematically improving appropriate skills and diminishing or eliminating challenging behaviors. ABA involves breaking skills into smaller components and teaching them systematically.
“By using an ABA approach, each individual’s program is tailored to his or her needs, closely monitored and modified as needed. ABA can be conducted at home, in schools, in treatment centers and in other settings as needed.”
District 2 Supervisor Ray Nutting spoke on behalf of the proclamation and described his experience growing up with his older sister who has Down Syndrome and his family’s years of operating a care facility for children with special needs.
Contact Chris Daley at 530-344-5063 or [email protected] Follow @CDaleyMtDemo.