Easter Seals Celebrates World Autism Awareness Day, Hosting Series of Community Forums to Identify Needed Services and Supports for Families

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Easter Seals is shining the spotlight on its services for individuals living with autism, and sharing the results of Easter Seals Living With Autism Study to provide a roadmap for the services and supports that families living with autism desperately need.

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There is an urgent need for increased funding and services - especially for adults with autism

Easter Seals is shining the spotlight on its services for individuals living with autism, and sharing the results of Easter Seals Living With Autism Study to provide a roadmap for the services and supports that families living with autism desperately need.

"World Autism Awareness Day provides Easter Seals with an opportunity to help raise awareness about autism services and treatments available to families today and a forum for sharing what we knows about effective interventions with others in countries around the globe," says James E. Williams, Jr., president and chief executive officer, Easter Seals. "There are a number of wonderful organizations researching and seeking a cause and cure for autism. Easter Seals is unique as the nation's leading provider of services and support for children and adults living with autism."

Parents of children with autism are struggling with a host of worries that impact every aspect of their lives, and are particularly fearful that their family will lack the life-long supports needed to address the significant challenges of autism, according to a new study released in December 2008 by Easter Seals and made possible by MassMutual Financial Group.

Autism is a growing public health crisis, with families desperate for solutions and resources. Easter Seals and others in the autism community are doing their best, but current systems, structures and resources to help people with autism and their families do not adequately meet the growing need, especially for adults with autism.

Easter Seals Living With Autism Study Confirms Parents Fears
Easter Seals' Living with Autism Study results reveal parents raising children with autism are very concerned about the future independence of their children. In fact, they're far more concerned than parents of typically developing children - nearly 80 percent say they're extremely or very concerned about their children's independence as an adult, compared to only 32 percent of other parents. This is especially true when it comes to their financial independence, quality of life, social and inter-personal connections, and employment and housing opportunities - and with good reason.

"The study quantifies what we've heard anecdotally over the years," says Patricia Wright, Ph.D., MPH, Easter Seals national director, autism services. "The one consistent message Easter Seals hears from the families we serve - after the initial apprehension and anxiety of learning their child has autism - is an overwhelming concern about the life-long supports their child with autism may need."

Over the last 20 years, Easter Seals has seen a dramatic increase in the number of children and adults with autism the organization serves. Today, as many as one in every 150 children is diagnosed with autism* - that's a new diagnosis every 20 minutes - making autism more prevalent than Down syndrome, childhood diabetes, and childhood cancer combined.

Critical Need for Services
Every family living with a person who has autism faces unique challenges. Early detection and intervention are the essential first steps.

"There is an urgent need for increased funding and services - especially for adults with autism," adds Williams. "We want to help change all of this and make a difference for families living with autism today."

Autism Is Treatable
While autism is a lifelong disability, it is treatable. "People living with autism--at any age--are capable of making significant progress through personalized interventions and therapy; and, can and do lead meaningful lives," says Wright.

A basic rule for treating autism is the earlier the intervention, the better. If parents are worried their child may have autism, they should follow their instincts, share their concerns with their pediatrician, contact their early intervention system, get a diagnosis, and seek help from service providers such as Easter Seals. Autism is a lifelong spectrum disorder that affects each individual differently and in varying degrees - getting the right help at the earliest stage of life can help a child gain the skills he or she needs to be successful.

Easter Seals + Autism
More than a generation ago, Easter Seals was front and center during the polio epidemic, working tirelessly to help children and adults with polio gain the skills necessary to live independently. And now, Easter Seals is working internationally to provide help, hope and answers to families living with autism today by delivering personalized services and treatments, as well as advocating with government to encourage financing for research and improved access to services and supports for people with autism.

Visit http://www.actforautism.org to learn more about autism, read the findings of Easter Seals Living with Autism Study, and find services at an Easter Seals near you. Help Easter Seals change the lives of people living with autism by becoming a donor or volunteer.

About Easter Seals
Easter Seals is the leading non-profit provider of services for individuals with autism, developmental disabilities, physical disabilities and other special needs. For nearly 90 years, we have been offering help and hope to children and adults living with disabilities, and to the families who love them. Through therapy, training, education and support services, Easter Seals creates life-changing solutions so that people with disabilities can live, learn, work and play. Support children and adults with disabilities at http://www.easterseals.com.

About Ability First Australia
Ability First Australia was formed in 2002 when the following state-based organisations agreed to join forces to better meet the needs of children and families living with disability. The founding organizations are Cootharinga Society of North Queensland, MontroseAccess, Queensland; Northcott Society of New South Wales, Novita Children's Services, South Australia; Rocky Bay Inc, Western Australia; and St. Giles Society, Tasmania. Member organisations offer an impressive profile of services, supporting 47,000 Australians with a disability and their families nationwide. A combined workforce of 3,000 employees and annual combined operating costs in excess of $82 million support the complex needs of the individuals who receive services from Ability First Australia members. In addition, more than 3,000 Australians volunteer their time and expertise each year to assist member organisations to achieve their goals. Visit http://www.abilityfirstaustralia.com.au to learn more.

About Easter Seals Canada
Easter Seals Canada has served Canadians with disabilities for more than eighty years. More than 100,000 Canadians and their families annually access programs and services provided by Easter Seals organizations across Canada. Easter Seals services include summer camp and active living programs, respite facilities, and the provision of specialized mobility and access equipment. For more information: http://www.easterseals.ca

*United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2007

Kristen Barnfield, Easter Seals

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