Apr-01-14 Christie Administration Recognizes Autism Awareness Month by Participating in Worldwide ‘Bubbles 4 Autism’ Event
Trenton – Staff from six state agencies today gathered in front of the State House to participate in a world-wide effort to raise awareness for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). The event was attended by representatives of the Departments of Community Affairs, Children and Families, Education, Health, Human Services, and Labor and Workforce Development.
Spearheaded by Faces4Autism, a non-profit advocacy and support group based in southern New Jersey, the Bubbles4Autism awareness campaign encourages schools, businesses and people nationally and internationally, to assemble and blow bubbles at the exact same time – 1:15 p.m. to 1:16 p.m. EST. Last year, more than 57,000 people participated from about 300 worldwide locations.
“The prevalence of autism has increased in New Jersey to 1 in 45 children,” said Jennifer Velez, Commissioner for the Department of Human Services, which serves adults with autism and other intellectual or developmental disabilities. “Raising awareness is essential to identifying, diagnosing and caring for individuals with autism.”
Last week, The CDC released a report indicating that the estimated number of children with ASD has increased nationwide to 1 in 68. Most children were not diagnosed until after their fourth birthday. New Jersey has a vast infrastructure in place that supports individuals with autism from birth through adulthood.
DHS’ Office on Autism serves as a centralized place to address issues associated with ASD through its Navigating through the Maze resource guide, which helps identify various state programs and services for people with Autism.
“The earlier a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or developmental delay is identified and connected to services, the sooner services can be provided to ensure the child is able to reach their full potential,” said Department of Health Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd. “That's why it's so important for every parent to track their child's development and act quickly if there is a concern.”
The Department of Health’s Early Intervention System plays a key role by providing early identification and referral, service coordination, evaluation/assessment, and developmental early intervention services for children from birth to three with developmental delays and disabilities.
“Bubbles 4 Autism is a fun but meaningful way to raise public awareness of autism,” said Department of Children and Families Commissioner Allison Blake. “It’s a day to embrace and value the uniqueness and potential of every child living with autism and ensure they receive the love and care they need to flourish.”
The Department’s Children's System of Care serves children and adolescents with emotional and behavioral health care challenges and their families; and children with developmental and intellectual disabilities and their families.
“New Jersey is well known for outstanding programs that serve students on the autism spectrum,” said Acting Education Commissioner David Hespe. “We are committed not only to ensuring quality programming, but also raising public awareness about autism. Awareness fosters acceptance and respect, and it helps promote the importance of early identification.”
The DOE’s Office of Special Education implements state and federal laws and regulations to ensure that pupils with disabilities in New Jersey receive full educational opportunities. The office is responsible for administering all federal funds received by the state for educating pupils with disabilities ages 3 through 21, and it monitors the delivery of special education programs operated under state authority.
"At the Labor Department, we recognize our obligation to fulfill Governor Christie’s Employment First Initiative by providing funding to programs for innovation. Throughout our Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services, we have funded $1.66 million to seven programs throughout the state specifically for our consumers with Autism over the past two years. These successful programs recognize the skills and abilities of individuals with ASD and match their abilities with companies interested in hiring qualified candidates," said Commissioner Harold J. Wirths.
The New Jersey Labor Department’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services (DVRS) helps people with disabilities prepare for and obtain work that is consistent with their abilities, strengths, priorities and capabilities.
“We are committed to providing affordable housing opportunities for New Jerseyans of all walks of life, including people with autism,” said New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Richard E. Constable III. “Additionally, we are pleased to invest in programming that helps adults and children with disabilities in New Jersey develop social interaction skills, engage in physical activity and enhance personal growth.”
The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, together with its affiliated agencies, works to create affordable housing for New Jersey residents, including individuals with special needs such as autism. The Department also supports recreational and athletic opportunities for individuals with disabilities such as autism through two programs, the Athletics for Persons with Disabilities and Recreational Opportunities for Individuals with Disabilities (ROID) programs. The grants are implemented through the DCA’s Division of Housing and Community Resources.
For more information about New Jersey’s autism related programs and services, please go to http://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/ddd/home/ooa.html.
New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (LWD) staff members
joined other state agencies in front of the New Jersey Statehouse to blow bubbles
to raise awareness for Autism Spectrum Disorders. Pictured left to right: Frank
Lay, LWD Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services; Denise Groze, Office
of Communications; and Deanna O’Connor, Brian Burns and Gina Belfiore from
the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services.