By SHERRI RUGGIERI
Ironically, at the end of the month of April, the Center for Disease Control recently reported that the incidence of children with an autism spectrum disorder has risen nationally from 1 in 59 children. In New Jersey, the prevalence is 1 in 34 children, which reveals a 19% increase from two years ago (1 in 41). One theory is that greater awareness in New Jersey has led to an increased diagnosis rather than any “hot spot” or “epidemic.” The state with the second highest prevalence is Maryland (1 in 55).
For many years, my daughter and I were Autism Ambassadors for Autism New Jersey. We worked with Edison Township’s Mayor to issue a Proclamation declaring April as Autism Awareness month. It always bothered her that awareness was the goal. Instead, she wanted a more literal slogan like race for a cure. I suggested Autism Advocacy or Embracing Differences. She is now 21 years old and faces an uncertain future. I worry as she tries to navigate adult responsibilities and achieve some degree of independence.
The increase in the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders frightens me because I have lived through the struggles. It is my hope that society will continue to help these children and their families. I have found there to be power from working together with groups like AUTISM NEW JERSEY https://www.autismnj.org/; APEN (Autism SPectrum Education Network) https://aspennj.org/; and PEACHNJ (Parents of Edison’s Awesome CHildren) https://www.facebook.com/groups/peachnj/
Sherri Ruggieri, proud to be Rachel’s mom.
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