By Phil Corso
City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) announced last week he was a leading advocate in the city’s restoration of a $1.31 million allocation to the Council’s Autism Initiative in the fiscal year 2013 budget, which provides services to children and families affected by the disorder.
“Autism impacts too many children and families today,” Weprin said. “It knows no boundaries.”
The Council’s Autism Initiative provides social and recreational services for children on the autism spectrum, Weprin said, and supplies educational and training services to families. The initiative also funds child-care services that help parents hold jobs with the piece of mind that their children are in safe hands, Weprin said.
With help from the initiative, Weprin said children can live fuller and more productive lives.
“The prevalence of autism has increased to epidemic proportions,” Weprin said. “While there is no cure, quality services go a long way toward maximizing positive outcomes.”
Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) was one of many proponents of the initiative’s restoration and said she was glad to have helped Weprin in the fight. She joined Weprin and several other Council leaders in April on the steps of City Hall to urge for the restoration of the Council Autism Initiative.
“With minority children already at a disadvantage due to misdiagnosis or late diagnosis of autism, we must ensure that our children receive the programmatic and educational resources they need,” Ferreras said.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Center for Disease and Control and Prevention reported about one in 88 children was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Weprin said children with autism responded better and experienced a better quality of life when given access to services that allow them to “engage and participate in social skill development.”
Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn) joined with his colleagues in celebrating the initiative’s restoration.
“Children with autism are capable of so many wonderful things, and thanks to the city’s Autism Initiative, thousands have made great strides for and improved their quality of life,” Williams said. “As someone who grew up with Tourette’s syndrome, I deeply appreciate the value of programs like this and the opportunities they provide to children with so much to give.”
Weprin said the additional services, including parent awareness and training, help lead to early intervention and ensure that children receive the appropriate services in proper educational settings.
“Not only are those diagnosed with the disorder affected, so are their families,” Weprin said.
Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4573.