As autism rate rises, N.J. group pushes for more help

As national autism awareness month continues, an advocacy group says the developmental disease is becoming more prevalent in New Jersey.

It’s recommending national and state measures to help families deal with the costs and challenges of autism.

One bill in the state Legislature would provide GPS-monitoring devices for autistic children.

“Approximately 50 percent of parents report that their children with autism wander away from them or bolt away from them,” said Suzanne Buchanan, executive director of Autism New Jersey. “They’re leaving the area and are not in a safe situation.”

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Another state measure would streamline the process of applying to state agencies for services as an individual with autism ages out of child care and needs adult programs.

“Most often, developmental disabilities are lifelong conditions,” Buchanan said. “So having one application as a child goes from the school-age system and the children’s system of care up through on adulthood and the Division of Developmental Disabilities would be very helpful for parents.”

Federal legislation awaiting action in Congress would establish tax-free savings accounts for parents of children with disabilities. That would be a tremendous help for families struggling with the financial burdens of autism, Buchanan said.

One in 68 children is now diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder nationally — with boys nearly five times more likely than girls to have autism, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In New Jersey, it’s estimated that one in 48 children — and one in 28 boys — has autism.

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