New Jersey Leads the Nation in Autism Services

Autism Services and Awareness

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A speech therapist can help children with a wide range of issues, from kids with articulation disorders treatable with Speech Buddies to children with severe autism who have extremely limited speech. Autism spectrum disorder affects children in so many different ways. And with the ever-growing public awareness of autism comes a growth in autism services, particularly in New Jersey. New Jersey offers much more in terms of autism services than other states, and this may be because autism rates are much higher in New Jersey than elsewhere in the U.S. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), autism affects one in 88 children nationwide. In New Jersey, the incidence rate of autism is about one in 50. So what’s so special about New Jersey that would increase the rate so much?

Analyzing Autism Rates in New Jersey

The report from earlier this year about autism rates in NJ was met with speculation by experts. Walter Zahorodny, assistant professor of pediatrics at UMDNJ – New Jersey Medical School, collected the data for NJ. He speculated that the rate did not necessarily reflect that there are more autistic children in New Jersey than elsewhere in the country. Rather, that autistic children are more likely to be diagnosed due to a heightened public awareness and sophisticated autism services in the state.

The state health commissioner, Mary O’Dowd, also pointed out that New Jersey has led the nation in autism services for more than three decades. In particular, O’Dowd emphasize that NJ has an effective identification program in place, and that families, educators, and health professionals are highly aware of the characteristics of autism. It’s also worth noting that some parents have moved to New Jersey with their autistic children precisely because of the autism services there.

Autism Services in New Jersey

Indeed, nearly two years ago in January 2011, Gov. Chris Christie announced a proposal to create even more specialized public schools to care for and educate children with autism. Despite the heightened ASD awareness in NJ, some school districts still struggle to provide autism services. Some welcomed the idea because it would provide more options for families. However, the proposal was not without criticism. Other families and organizations did not welcome Gov. Christie’s proposal because they favored an integrated approach to autism education, and the specialized schools would separate children with autism from those that are neurotypical (NT).

Autism Services - Special Ed

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Regardless of which side of the fence you’re on, there’s no denying that New Jersey has plenty of resources for families of autistic children. For starters, if you’re looking for a speech-language pathologist (SLP) in NJ, use the “Find a Professional” search offered by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). Enter your zip code, select the age of your child, and hit “Submit” to find an ASHA-certified professional near you. An SLP can help your autistic child with numerous speech and language issues, such as pragmatic language skills (making eye contact) and articulation skills.

Here are some other resources in New Jersey for autistic children and their families:

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State Resources