MAC Annual Meeting Welcomes Dr. Peter Mundy

The Marin Autism Collaborative held its 2011 Annual Meeting on April 2 at the Marin County Office of Education. Dr. Peter Mundy, from the UC Davis MIND Institute and the Department of Education, spoke on “Social Attention Impairments in Autism.”

Dr. Mundy provided a comprehensive history of autism and the role of joint attention as an indicator of autism and social impairments. Joint attention is a pivotal, gateway behavior, as it plays a key role in learning. Problems in joint attention lead to difficulties in learning both language and social skills. Dr. Mundy then went on to discuss the research-based interventions for school-age children and older children. There is still much work to be done in this area and Dr. Mundy is currently working on a virtual reality research project to help children and young adults learns these skills in a simulated environment.

For more information on the talk, contact Katrina Ferreyra, MAC Coordinator, at kferreyra@lifehouseagency.org.

Secretary Sebelius on National Autism Awareness Month

Statement by Secretary Sebelius on National Autism Awareness Month

Every April we recognize National Autism Awareness Month and the special challenges faced by those with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). CDC estimates that an average of 1 in 110 children in the U.S. have an ASD. At the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, we continue to strive to meet the complex needs of all people with ASD and their families.

ASD symptoms range from mild to severe and the condition may pose significant communication and behavioral challenges. There is no cure, but we know that early intervention can greatly improve a child’s development. The first three years are particularly critical. That’s why we are educating more health professionals to recognize the signs and symptoms early, so children can get treatment when it is most likely to be effective.

Last year, we established a new national resource and information center to provide information on community-based services and interventions for people with ASD and their families. Last month, we announced a new website that provides job skills training for high school graduates who have ASD or other disabilities. New research funds are being used to deepen our understanding of ASD, test innovative treatments, study genes associated with ASD, and explore the needs of the growing number of adults with ASD.

The Affordable Care Act, the health care law signed a year ago by President Obama, will help ease the financial burden that often comes with treating and caring for people with ASD. The law requires new plans to cover autism screening and developmental assessments for children at no cost to parents, and allows parents to keep their children on their family health insurance until they turn 26. Insurers will also no longer be allowed to deny children coverage for a pre-existing condition such as ASD or to set arbitrary lifetime or annual limits on benefits.

This April, and all year, let us reflect on this urgent public health challenge and rededicate ourselves to addressing the needs of people and families with ASD.

For more information on the Department’s efforts regarding ASD, please visit http://www.hhs.gov/autism/ or http://www.healthcare.gov/foryou/family/soon/index.html