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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Staten Island Rally

The Staten Island Advocate reports on a rally for people with autism:

Last night, their biggest cheerleader was Borough President James Molinaro, who hosted his inaugural “Stand Together for Autism Services on Staten Island,” in the Michael J. Petrides Educational Complex, Sunnyside.

Molinaro told the crowd that this was just the beginning of “a very long, long journey” of letting government know “what we want and what we deserve” in terms of services for those with autism.

A critical, but often neglected component noted during the evening, is the care of autistic adults.

“The biggest spike in autism came about 15 years ago and those kids are adults now,” said Dr. Joanne Gerenser, executive director of the Eden II School for Autistic Children. “We recognize early intervention is critical, but what are the effects of time. You’re a kid for 18 years and an adult for 70. The amount of money spent on adult services is inordinate.”

State Sen. Roy McDonald, who proposed an Autism Bill of Rights, said often politicians will use the bad economy as an excuse not to provide services. The only way to combat that, he said, is for parents, advocates and others to stand together to make their voices heard.

“Make sure your cause is addressed by the people in power appropriately,” he said.

Funding right now stands in the way of research and services.

“It’s one of the fastest growing developmental disabilities, but agencies are being asked to do more with a lot less,” said Donna Long, executive director of theG.R.A.C.E. Foundation. “The demand is so great that the needs can’t be met. It’s a very difficult thing to say to a family searching for a service that we have to put their child on a waiting list.”

Autistic children who can’t get spots in programs geared toward them often wind up in places devoted to a wide range of developmental disabilities.

“They are well-intentioned, but they don’t have the expertise,” said Dr. Gerenser.