TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Ellen Karcher which would direct New Jersey’s Early Intervention program to meet the needs of autistic children was unanimously approved by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today.
“New Jersey has the highest rate of autism in the nation,” said Senator Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer. “Every day, a child is born who will need extensive State support to manage the chronic, lifelong social disabilities associated with the autism spectrum disorders. However, if we can begin treatment early, through New Jersey’s Early Intervention program, we can ensure better results down the road.”
The bill, S-2568, sponsored by Senators Karcher and Loretta Weinberg, would require the Early Intervention Program in the Department of Health and Senior Services to address the specific needs of children with autism spectrum disorders and their families and begin collecting statewide information regarding autism incidence in New Jersey. The bill would require the EI program to develop guidelines to evaluate infants and toddlers for autism, and ensure the timely referral by health care professionals for early intervention services.
Senator Karcher noted that early intervention has shown much success in helping children diagnosed with other developmental disabilities in making better progress in their later treatment.
“Early Intervention works to provide so many children the regimented treatment they need to live full, productive lives,” said Senator Karcher. “It develops skills that will be used to further their educational and behavioral treatment programs moving forward. We need to utilize this successful tool to help kids with autism have a chance to overcome their disability and achieve their maximum potential.”
Another bill, S-2569, sponsored by Senators Weinberg and Joseph Coniglio which would permanently ensure funding for autism research in New Jersey, was also approved by the Committee. Both bills were approved by the Senate Health Committee in May as part of a legislative package addressing autism, and now head to the full Senate for consideration.