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Autism Awareness in Ohio: Time to Throw Away Stereotypes

GRAPHIC: The Autism Society of Ohio says the increase in autism prevalence rates underscores the need for increased awareness of the disorder and the supports needed to help those impacted. Credit: ASO.
GRAPHIC: The Autism Society of Ohio says the increase in autism prevalence rates underscores the need for increased awareness of the disorder and the supports needed to help those impacted. Credit: ASO.
March 31, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Autism Awareness Month begins Tuesday, and leaders with the Autism Society of Ohio say autism's continued increase in prominence validates what they are seeing and hearing from families, schools and counties across the state. Board of directors chair Andie Ryley said it is time to throw away the stereotypes of autism and instead perceive competence in a group of people who have many abilities.

"Some have very talented gifts in mathematics or in art, but put them in a social situation or a situation where they need to problem-solve, and they might look more like a person with a disability," Ryley said.

The rise in prevalence of autism highlights the pressing need for additional direct services, educational resources, professional training for parents, teachers and caregivers, and for support networks for individuals affected by autism and their families, she said. According to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, the prevalence rate for autism is now 1 in 68, which is an increase of more than 30 percent in two years. More than 50,000 individuals in Ohio and their families are affected by autism.

Autism Society of Ohio executive director Dean Pulliam said Ohio policy makers have worked to increase resources and funding for autism, but there is still great need for adequately trained support staff to assist families in providing direct care services for children. He added that better resources also are needed to assist young adults with autism as they transition out of education programs and into the job market.

"They need help in becoming as independent as possible as young adults, in finding career paths and work sites that will accept them as valued employees and apply their skills and abilities in the most effective manner to keep them willfully and meaningfully employed."

The Autism Society kicks off Autism Awareness Month Tuesday night with the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. Part of the proceeds of every game ticket sold will go to support the cause and build support for those affected by autism.

More information about the event and others this month is available at www.autismohio.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH