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 or

Documentary Film, “Wretches and Jabberers,” Focuses on Autism

A new documentary file, “Wretches and Jabberers,” follows two Vermont men who have become global ambassadors for autism. It is showing April 9th in Santa Clara, CA. Visit the film’s website to see the trailer and screening information!

UCSF Autism Center Recruits for a New Study!

How do children with autism process sound & touch?
Dr. Marco and the UCSF Autism and Neurodevelopment center are recruiting boys between the ages of 8-11 years old who have autism, sensory processing differences, ADHD, or healthy controls to participate in a non-invasive study of sound and touch. Interested parents can call or e-mail the center for a confidential phone interview screening. If selected to participate, subjects can participate in diagnostic testing, cognitive testing, a brain activity scan, a Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI) of the brain, and genetic sampling. Participants will be compensated $20/session.
For more information, please call or email: Susanna Hill (415) 640-2680 or

Resources for Teens and Children in Social Skills Development

Social Skills for Teenagers with Developmental and Autism Spectrum Disorders

The PEERS Treatment Manual
• By Elizabeth A. Laugeson, and Fred Frankel.
Published May 2010
This book is essential reading for any clinician or researcher working with teens with autism spectrum disorders. This parent-assisted intervention for teens is based on a comprehensive, evidence-based, 14-week program at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, the manualization…

Children’s Friendship Training
• By Fred D. Frankel, and Robert J. Myatt.
Published December 2002

MAC Youth Sub-Committee Working on Projects to Support Children with Asperger’s

January 11, 2011
The Marin Autism Youth Sub-Committee met and discussed the project ideas that had been developed in earlier meetings and the next steps.
1. Working with the Schools to support social thinking. Karen will schedule time with Penny Valentine to discuss supporting the social thinking challenges of students in a creative manner within the districts. Karen will also find out solutions to creating an event where districts share ideas, programs etc. on how they support students with HFA/Asperger within their districts.
2. Working with school counselors. Karen will connect with school staff to understand how career counseling is provided for students with HFA/Asperger and to explore needs in this area.
3. Including more Asperger’s Syndrome information and resources on the MAC website. Katrina will facilitate adding additional resources to the MAC web site, such as an Asperger Director, articles on Asperger and Success stories on Asperger. Karen will send out a call for stories through her data base.
4. Sample IEP goals. Cheryl Markowitz is going to provide social thinking goal examples to Katrina to post on the Mac website.
5. Reading Resources. Cheryl and Karen will provide Katrina with Asperger reading resources. Stephanie Stein will ask her Asperger Support group to come up with each of their 5 top reads for Asperger and a document will be developed and available on the MAC web site. Katrina is going to post the Diagnostic Center of the North web site on the Mac web site.
6. Behavior plans and transition plans. Stephanie Stein ensures that Matrix will offer a workshop on core components of a behavior support plan as well as the core components of a transition plan
7. Community Awareness. Karen will ensure that on Feb 5th the film “Asperger Difference” will be shown at MCOE, FREE to the community to increase community awareness. Stefanie Stein will help promote through the Asperger support group and MAC will post on the web site. All committee members will help promote to typical classrooms and general families in the community as well. Karen will connect with the IJ to get event on community events page.

Liz McDonough reported that Autistry Studios is really getting settled in their new site in San Rafael and that workshops are being developed at a fast pace to meet the expanding needs of our county. Liz is co-facilitating 3 to 4 workshops currently for teens and adults with HFA/Aspgerger. Liz is also offering private counseling support to children, teens, adults with ASD

Stephanie Stein from Matrix reported that Penny Valentine, the new SELPA director, will be joining the Autism/Asperger support group on January 25th at Matrix. Stephanie then encouraged families and professionals to connect with the California Diagnostic Center North website to connect to a wide variety of supports on Aspgerger, especially some very effective videos. She also announced that the Diagnostic Center is offering a new consultative service to the districts (mini consult) for schools that have simple questions about supports for students with Asperger.

Cheryl Markowitz, director of P.L.A.Y let the group know that her organization had consolidated offices and the office in San Anselmo was now closed but the Mill Valley Office there to support. She and her agency are working with school districts to provide needed trainings in the area of ASD, behavior and social thinking/skills. Cheryl shared that her agency is moving to providing social groups in context (the community and/or in the child’s home)so that friendship development can occur in the most natural environments that can offer sustainability.

JordanaPerman/Parent: Shared that there is a great need for peer buddies for children like her son with HFA/Aspgerger and less interest for the student to have an adult facilitating by their side. The committee agreed and felt that this idea was of great benefit. The committee felt it would be a great idea to be able to offer some type of Buddy Certificate to neuro-typical teens who are in Scout Programs or needing to do their community service hours locally.

Katrina Ferreyra: MAC coordinator shared the news that the MAC professional directory was once again up and running. She also told us to Save the Date for MAC’s annual event on April 2nd at Marin County Office of Education. An amazing speaker from the M.I.N.D Institute will be addressing Social Issues, Dr. Peter Mundy.

Liz Domash/Licensed Creative Arts Therapist in Marin shared that she is working with students at Cypress School teaching social skills, communication skills through music, art and dance. She is also providing private sessions for children and teens in Marin County.

Karen Kaplan: Announced the up and coming film “Asperger Difference” scheduled for Feb 5th at Marin County Office of Education from 1:00 to 2:00. Contact Karen at to reserve FREE seats. Don’t Miss January 19, Marin Autism Lecture on Neurology and Autism from 12 to 2 at Marin County Office of Education. Email Karen if interested in attending.

Thanks for all everyone does. Next meeting Feb. 15th, at AAA 2nd floor from 9:30 am to 11:00 am