The first meeting of the Autism Task Force was on September 30th. Chaired by Delaware State Senator Margaret Henry of the 2nd District, the Autism Task Force was created by Senate Concurring Resolution 65 at the end of the 2014 Fiscal Year legislative session. The purpose of the task force is to make recommendations on the University of Delaware’s Center For Disabilities Study on autism which created a Blueprint For Collective Action for education of autistic students in Delaware and beyond.
The study done by the University of Delaware’s Center For Disabilities Studies had some startling statistics about autism in America. 1 out of 88 American births are producing a child in the autism spectrum disorder which has grown at a rate of 1,148% with annual rates gaining anywhere from 7-10%. Current costs for autism in the USA are at $60 billion dollars, but in the next decade they are expected to soar anywhere from $200-$400 billion dollars. Out of the $60 billion that is currently spent on autism, $36 billion is spent on adults with autism. It is estimated that 2/3rd of these costs could be alleviated based on early diagnosis and treatment for children in the autism spectrum. An estimated 56% of students with autism finish high school.
Autism rates in Delaware over a 10 year period have gone from 475 in 2004 to 1,208 in 2013, rising nearly 3 times during the past decade.
The blueprint’s mission statement is to start “a statewide plan for improving and coordinating services and support to Delaware’s children, youth and adults with autism that contain long and short-range goals associated with specific outcomes. This was a result of stakeholder consensus that included a strong voice from parents and families and represented all ages and services from birth to late aged.”
The Blueprint model originated from the Statewide Autism Summit on June 7th, 2012. As a result of the summit, workgroups and committees formed, and they met from September, 2012 until May, 2013. In July of 2013, an Interagency Committee for Autism met, which resulted in a “Futures Plan” within a “Logic Model Framework” the same month. Various stakeholders involved in the process included hospitals, health professionals, the Delaware Department of Education, other state agencies, colleges and universities, families, advocacy agencies, schools, and various school districts. “The expected long-term outcome: To assure that all Delaware citizens with autism have the opportunity to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to live independent or interdependent lives within the community.”
The blueprint has six areas of improvement it would like the state of Delaware to take a strong look at.
1) Better identification, diagnosis, and classification.
2) Training and technical assistance.
3) Pre-Professional training
4) Self-Determination, Self-Advocacy, and Social Network Development
5) Transition to Adult Life
6) Systems Coordination
In June 2014, as the legislative session wound down, the Delaware Senate passed Senate Concurring Resolution 65. The resolution called for the initiation of Educational and Technical Assistance Teams and a statewide Autism Resource Center.
The Autism task force will have 25 minutes allotted each meeting for public comment. The next meetings will occur on October 21st, November 8th, December 9th, January 13th, February 10th and March 10th. No times are shown at present for the meetings, but I will certainly update this information as soon as I get it.
Senator Henry has a long and distinguished history in the Delaware Senate, proudly serving the 2nd District since 1994. At present, she serves as the Senate Majority Whip for Delaware. Henry will face Republican candidate Robert F. Martin in the November 4th election. During the 147th Legislative Assembly in Delaware, Senator Henry served on the education committee along with fellow Senators David Sokola, Bethany Hall-Long, Nicole Poore, Bryan Townsend, Catherine Cloutier and Ernesto Lopez. She also served as the chair of the Judiciary and Administrative Services/Election committees, while being a part of the Community/County Affairs, Executive, Ethics, Health & Social Services, Legislative Council and Permanent Rules committees during the same time period. She has also served as the Executive Director of Delaware Guidance and as the Assistant Dean at Delaware -Technical and Community College.
*First picture of Senator Margaret Rose Henry is from the University of Delaware website, with the section entitled Blacks In Delaware
*Second picture of Senator Margaret Rose Henry is from Matt Denn’s campaign website for Attorney General of Delaware