Governor Pat Quinn today promoted autism awareness at Brookfield Zoo. He also declared Autism Awareness Day throughout Illinois. Today's event is a part of the Governor's agenda to ensure all people have the opportunity to follow their dreams and reach their full potential.
"More than two million people live with an autism spectrum disorder in the United States," Governor Quinn said. "During Autism Awareness Month it is our duty to listen, educate and learn about autism, support the autism community and get involved. By participating in Autism Awareness Day, we can make Illinois a more educated and welcoming state."
In honor of Autism Awareness Day, Brookfield Zoo is providing a day to help children with autism connect to animals, the natural world and each other. Brookfield Zoo has also launched a first-of-its-kind pilot program to support early learners on the autism spectrum and is participating in "Zoos Go Blue," an effort to turn zoos' lights blue to increase autism awareness. This is their second year partnering with Autism Speaks to raise awareness of the disorder and the programs tailored to help individuals with autism and their families.
Autism is a complex brain development disorder that leads to social and communication difficulties and repetitive behaviors and can be linked to motor coordination issues and intellectual disability. The autism spectrum encompasses a wide array of symptoms and individuals. Roughly 25 percent of adults with autism are nonverbal, and about 46 percent are of above-average intellectual ability. People with autism may tend to interact, communicate and learn in ways that are different from others. Autism has been reported in all racial, socioeconomic and ethnic groups.
Most symptoms of autism become prevalent between two and three years of age and the disorder is nearly five times more likely in boys than in girls. Autism awareness is particularly meaningful as autism prevalence has jumped 10 to 17 percent annually in recent years. Studies have shown that it costs an average $17,000 more per year to raise a child with autism than a child without autism.
Governor Quinn has been recognized both nationally and locally as a champion for people with disabilities. Two years ago, the Governor launched his Rebalancing Initiative to improve the state's system of caring for those with disabilities and mental health challenges. The initiative has successfully moved hundreds of people with disabilities out of institutions and into community-based care. In addition, The Arc of the United States recently named Governor Quinn the Advocacy Matters! Award recipient for 2013, which is The Arc's most prestigious, national honor. The award is presented annually to proven leaders who advocate and protect the civil and human rights of people with disabilities and increase resources, services and supports that promote their full inclusion and participation in the community.