Established July 2013
Some of the staff of Ocean Partnership for Children celebrating a past Autism Awareness Month.
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April is national Autism Awareness Month and Causeway is calling attention to this important issue facing children, youth, and families in our community. The purpose of Autism Awareness Month is to promote awareness, advocate for action, and encourage inclusion and acceptance, which we can all do together during this special month.
So, what is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
While most of us have heard of autism spectrum disorder or being ‘on the spectrum’, we may not be exactly sure what it means. Autism Spectrum Disorder is a range of conditions affection social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communications. Because autism is a spectrum disorder, each person with autism has a distinct set of strengths and challenges.
The most obvious signs of autism appear between two and three years old. Children may fail to respond to their name or have a reduced interest in people. They may avoid eye contact, have trouble understanding other people’s feelings or expressing their own, and become upset with minor changes in their routines. Some may flap their hands, rock their bodies, or have unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell taste, look or feel.
It is important to work with health care professionals to seek screening and the correct diagnosis. There are a variety of treatments for modifying challenging behaviors, but it is critical for parents and caregivers to research treatments and make decisions based on the needs of their child or family member.
How prevalent is Autism Spectrum Disorder Nationally and Right Here in Our Community?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of children identified with Autism Spectrum disorder is 1 in 54 children nationally. But in New Jersey, the rate is 1 in 32 children. And in Ocean County, it is even higher locally.
Where can I get help for my family member with Autism?
There are many resources available to parents and caregivers of children, youth, and adults with autism spectrum disorder. One of the most well-known national resources is Autism Speaks. Their website www.autismspeaks.org is full of resource guides, from screening for the disorder to treatment options. They even have an Autism Response Team (ART) which can be reached by calling 1-888-288-4762 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are also statewide resources right here in New Jersey, one of them being Autism New Jersey. You can get more localized referral information, education, and training by visiting their website www.autismnj.org. Their help line email is email@example.com. They also have statewide information currently about Covid and the vaccine for those with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Locally, a helpful resource is POAC Autism Services located in Brick. They provide training, information and referral, and year-long recreational events for the entire family. Their website is www.poac.net.
Another important resource, one that Causeway supports, is Ocean Partnership for Children, Ocean County’s care management organization (CMO). This nonprofit agency coordinates care for youth up to the age of 21 with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), including autism spectrum disorder, as well as youth with mental health and substance use challenges.
Connecting with Ocean Partnership for Children can be particularly helpful if the child or youth has behavioral or other mental health issues. As part of the New Jersey Children’s System of Care, Ocean Partnership for Children can coordinate services, such as in-home supports, respite, and summer camp opportunities. The agency does this work through specialized IDD teams to support youth and families struggling with intellectual and developmental challenges.
Ocean Partnership also provides a Children’s IDD Specialist that can help families with completing Developmental Disabilities (DD) applications for youth under 18 years of age and Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) applications for youth over 18 years of age. These applications are important as they open the door for potential services for the youth or young adult. To connect with the Children’s IDD Specialist Program at Ocean Partnership for Children, email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
For more information about Ocean Partnership for Children in general, visit the agency’s website at www.oceanpartnership.org. Ocean Partnership for Children also provides an Ocean County specific information and referral website at www.oceanresourcenet.org. For immediate access to Ocean Partnership for Children’s services call PerformCare at 1-877-652-7624 (available 24/7).
How can We ALL Help during Autism Awareness Month?
One of the most important aspects of Autism Awareness Month is to encourage inclusion and acceptance. Many children with autism feel excluded and alienated, especially at school. Adults with autism also may find it difficult to get a job or interact socially with their peers. This month, we are all being asked to embark on a Kindness Quest to help create a more inclusive world for people with autism. You can check out more specific Kindness Quest suggestions at www.autismspeaks.org/world-autism-month-faq. Remember, we can all help children, youth and adults with autism feel supported right here in our home community!