AUTISM - FACTS AND STATISTICS
Autism is the fastest growing developmental disability in the United States, affecting more than three million people.
In Arkansas, Autism Spectrum Disorders have increased from 6.9 per 1,000 (1 in 145 people) in 2002 to 15.5 per 1,000 in 2012. That's one our of every 65 people in our state suffers from Autism. My friends, we are in a Crisis Situation!
As Co-Chairman of the Legislative Autism Task Force, I know that Autism can affect anyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or socioeconomic background.
I've see the symptoms and characteristics of Autism affect too many of our children and families. Autism affects an individual's ability to learn, or develop crucial social skills. And often times our kids have trouble understanding verbal and nonverbal communication.
We know that our good doctors, therapists and educators can help our folks who suffer from Autism reach their full potential. But that can only happen by providing early and accurate diagnosis followed by implementing appropriate education, intervention and therapy solutions that are vital to future growth and development of our kids.
I'm pleased that we've had success in providing enhanced support and services for our kids and families that suffer from Autism. We've secured private insurance that covers Autism, and we've gotten approval and funding for a Medicaid Waiver that serves Autistic kids when families can't afford private insurance.
But we have much, much more to do, and we will continue fighting this fight until we have won and our kids and families that suffer from Autism get the help they so badly need.
The Proclamation issued on March 28 by Governor Mike Beebe proclaims April 2014 as AUTISM AWARENESS MONTH and April 2, 2014 as WORLD AUTISM AWARENESS DAY to raise public awareness of Autism and the myriad of issues surrounding Autism.
OVERCOMING AUTISM – ALEXANDER’S STORY
He was about two years old – a picture of health, hitting all the right benchmarks – height, weight, even teeth. Then, suddenly, the sparkle left Alexander’s eyes, and he no longer answered his mother when she called his name. Veronica Myers knew something was wrong with her son. Soon, Arkansas Children’s Hospital confirmed her worst fear - a diagnosis of severe Autism, with a chilling prognosis that Alexander could spend the rest of his life in an institution.
The single Mom vowed that would not happen to her son. With tears in her eyes, she describes the 15 year, life consuming battle fighting for the care, treatment and education that special children need. And she persevered in that long and lonely fight, winning the battle by working night and day to help Alexander get better. Today, 17 year old Alexander is a happy and energetic teenager who loves music, cars and electronics. In May 2011, with full cap and gown, Alexander graduated with honors from Hall High School in Little Rock with a 3.5 GPA. Alexander is one of the lucky ones – he had a Mom who cared, a Mom who did everything she could to help Alexander overcome Autism.
Early intervention, and appropriate medical care early in life, can make a difference in helping our children. My bill requiring that Autism be covered by insurance will help kids like Alexander live a full and successful live. I’m proud of that, but I’m more proud of Alexander and his Mom.
This success story, and the hope it provides to all those who work hard to overcome adversity, is my perspective on the important issue of Autism. This developmental brain disorder appears in the first three years of a child's life and can impact an entire lifetime. Arkansas has the 7th highest rate of Autism in the country, but we must do better.
Below is a photo capturing the many hands who worked to make this insurance coverage a reality. I believe this bill to represent a substantial step towards giving our communities' children the critical early intervention care they need.