Governor Tom Corbett has declared April 2 as Autism Awareness Day in Pennsylvania in recognition of the challenges faced by individuals diagnosed with autism and their families.
"The number of individuals with autism who receive services in the commonwealth has nearly tripled in the last few years, to more than 56,000 Pennsylvanians," Governor Corbett said.
National statistics on the prevalence of autism indicate there could be 130,000 more Pennsylvanians living with autism who are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with another disorder.
"I encourage all Pennsylvanians to help in the efforts to raise awareness about autism. I will continue my commitment to provide better access to services for individuals with autism, as well as support early diagnosis and early behavioral intervention," Corbett continued.
Governor Corbett has committed to increasing the number of individuals served through the commonwealth's programs to help them live within their homes and communities. With an additional investment included in his 2014-15 budget proposal, 100 more individuals with autism statewide could receive home and community-based services.
The governor's proposal also supports investment in early intervention, which provides support for students with developmental disabilities, ages three to five. The total $237.5 million proposed includes $9.5 million to serve an additional 1,500 children, bringing the total number of students receiving services to nearly 52,350.
Today is World Autism Awareness Day, highlighted by a global initiative to "Light it Up Blue" and kick off April as Autism Awareness Month. Many iconic landmarks and communities take part to "Light It Up Blue", including the Capitol building in Harrisburg. Governor Corbett is also wearing the signature blue pin for the campaign throughout the day to encourage awareness.
"One child is diagnosed with autism every 20 minutes," said Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare Secretary Beverly Mackereth. "We're working to create a greater public awareness of this cause and to ensure that services are there for this population."
The innovative programs administered by the Department of Public Welfare's Bureau of Autism Services are among the only in the nation to focus on serving adults with autism.
The department also funds and oversees the Autism Services, Education, Research, and Training Collaboratives (ASERT). For more information on the ASERT Collaborative, visit www.paautism.org or call 1-877-231-4244 to get connected to local resources.