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Massachusetts General Law sets apart the month of April as Autism Awareness Month. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which is generally known as Autism, is defined as a complex developmental disability that affects an individual’s verbal and non-verbal communication, social awareness and interactions. The term “spectrum” refers to the varying degree of symptoms, skills and levels of impairment or disability that individuals with ASD may experience. Therefore, it is important to note that each individual with ASD’s symptoms present differently.  Currently, there is no “medical test,” such as a blood test, to diagnose an individual with ASD. Instead, ASD is diagnosed through an examination of an individual’s development and behaviors.

Data reveals that one in 68 children in the United States and approximately 75,000 individuals in Massachusetts as of 2014 have ASD.  Males are almost 5 times more likely to be affected than females.  Furthermore, ASD is estimated to be the fastest growing developmental disability in the United States by The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM). Anyone can be affected by Autism regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or socioeconomic background.

Early diagnosis and intervention, as well as ongoing support from family, doctors, therapists, and educators can positively impact individuals with ASD to achieve better outcomes. Raising awareness for ASD is vital as individuals with ASD should have access to appropriate services throughout their lifetime, so that they may achieve their greatest potential.

Resources available to children and families in Massachusetts include:

  • MA Department of Developmental Services (DDS) Autism Support Centers are located throughout the Commonwealth and provide information and referral resources, family clinics, social skills/sensory programs, training for families and more.
  • Family TIES of Massachusetts (Together In Enhancing Support) is a statewide information, referral, and parent support network for families of children with disabilities. Contact Massachusetts Family TIES at 800-905-TIES (8437) or 617-624-5992 (TTY).
  • Public Health Supports and Services- Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) offers programs and services to children with special needs and their families. Callers may reach the DPH Community Support Lineat 800-882-1435 (in MA only), 617-624-6060 or 617-624-5992 (TTY).

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