A recent report on autism prevalence among 8-year-olds in public schools shows that Minnesota has the highest rate of autism in the United States. The average rate in our country is one in every 126 8-year-olds, but in Minnesota, the rate increases to one in every 65. Considering these numbers, it is our duty to do what we can to understand autism and offer help to individuals with autism and their families.
One bill I will be focusing on this year is the Autism Spectrum Disorder Task Force Creation Bill. With this legislation, which I am a co-author, we want to bring together leaders in autism advocacy to create a statewide plan to improve Minnesota’s awareness and treatment.
The bill calls for a 19-member group consisting of legislators, family members of individuals with autism, family practice physicians, autism advocacy groups and public school support service members. They will be asked to:
- Develop an autism spectrum disorder statewide strategic plan that focuses on improving awareness, early diagnosis and intervention and on ensuring delivery of treatment and services for individuals diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, including the coordination and accessibility of cost-effective treatments and services throughout the individual's lifetime; and
- Coordinate with existing efforts relating to autism spectrum disorders at the departments of education, employment and economic development, health and human services, and at the University of Minnesota and other agencies and organizations as the task force deems appropriate.
Awareness is one step every Minnesotan can take to help individuals with autism. For useful information, I encourage you to check out the Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM) and the Minnesota Autism Center websites.
AuSM (www.ausm.org) is an organization of families, educators, caregivers and professionals committed to supporting individuals with autism spectrum disorders. Their mission is to enhance the lives of individuals with autism spectrum disorders. AuSM seeks to realize its mission through educational support, collaboration, and advocacy.
The Minnesota Autism Center (www.mnautism.org), located in Woodbury, Rochester and Minnetonka, was created to promote and provide home-, school- and center-based behavioral and academic services for children and youth affected by autism spectrum disorders. The Minnesota Autism Center promotes the general education and welfare of persons challenged by autism spectrum disorders and supports the development of healthy families.
I applaud the work of these organizations and encourage anyone interested to join in their work. The AuSM website includes information on volunteer opportunities within their organization. If time is an issue, both organizations appreciate donations to help them serve Minnesota children and families.
As always, please contact me with questions or suggestions about any issue. Please visit my Senate website at senate.mn/senatorwiger. I also encourage you to visit me at the Capitol, or let me know if you’d like me to stop by your home or apartment. Also, please tune in to my local cable TV show, “Your Capitol: What’s Up?,” which appears on public access channels 15 and 16.