Intro from The Vella Group: We’re pleased to share the perspective of Colleen Allen, President and CEO of the Autism Alliance of Michigan (AAoM) during Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month. Read on to learn more about this developmental disorder and the many AAoM efforts to make Michigan a better place for people with Autism as well as their families.
Families touched by Autism and professionals who work in the field think about this developmental disorder every day. For the rest of the world, we ask you to take time this month to learn about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and, if possible, offer a hand.
April is Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month. Seven million people, including one in 44 children, are diagnosed with ASD, according to the latest CDC estimates. This month, we underscore our advocacy for acceptance, inclusion and connections to support people with Autism throughout their lives.
Increased awareness improves the chance of early intervention, which has a significant impact on lifelong outcomes. Diagnoses as early as two or three years old, when a child’s brain is still developing, leads to more effective treatments, inclusion in regular education classrooms, preparedness for college, career and greater post-secondary options; ultimately, creating the the best chance for an individual to live a fully supported or independent life.
At Autism Alliance of Michigan (AAoM), we focus on the needs of families across the state. We help families navigate the maze of community services and systems, including challenges with insurance, educational programming and clinical options, for example, which are highly individualized for each family and person. From early diagnosis to ensuring supports for successful employment, those with ASD need continued advocacy. We know that many people with ASD are vulnerable and often disadvantaged at many stages of their lives.
For example, we know 50% of children with Autism tend to wander from their homes, and water is the number-one attraction. That’s why we advocate for GPS tracking devices and have been pushing for legislation that requires insurance coverage of these devices.
AAoM has also been involved in the training of nearly 25,000 police, fire and EMT personnel across the state. First Responder Training is critical as people with Autism are five times more likely to be incarcerated. Interactions with law enforcement in a highly volatile environment can lead to tragic outcomes without proper training.
With regard to education, AAoM is leading a statewide coalition to address barriers to quality education, especially learning loss for students with disabilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We can never take our foot off the gas when it comes to engaging statewide leaders to knock down barriers and push for the highest quality education for Michigan students with Autism.
In summation, AAoM exists to raise expectations and expand opportunities for people touched by Autism. We believe our world is better when everyone participates. Those with Autism can and should have safe, successful and inclusive lives. What they strive for is not uncommon to the hopes and dreams of all of us: to live the life we choose. They simply need help.