TRENTON – A bill package sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner, designed to increase and improve available resources for families and individuals living with Autism was signed into law today by Governor Jon Corzine.
“New Jersey unfortunately has the highest rates of autism in the nation,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer and Chair of the Senate Education Committee. “We, as a state, have an obligation to our residents be a national leader when it comes to providing the resources needed to support those with autism and their families and in pursuing new ways to decrease the number of new cases of autism in our state.”
Senator Turner was a co-sponsor of four of the measures signed into law today:
- S-2568 requires the Department of Health and Senior Services’ (DHSS) Early Intervention Program (EIP) to create initiatives to help address the needs of autistic children and their families. The EIP will work with autism groups around New Jersey to develop treatment guidelines for health care professionals to follow when working with autistic infants and toddlers. The EIP will also be responsible for referring autistic infants, toddlers and their families to different schools, community groups and organizations offering programs designed to meet the needs of children living with autism.
- S-2558 will make training in autism awareness a condition of teacher licensure. Coursework will be developed and included in the curricula of every college or university in New Jersey offering teacher or paraprofessional certification on how to deal with the characteristics and needs of autistic students.
- S-2559 establishes the New Jersey Adults with Autism Task Force within the Department of Human Services, to study, evaluate and develop recommendations for support, job training and placement, housing and long-term care programs for autistic adults.
- S-2723 requires DHSS to maintain a registry of reported autism diagnoses and appropriates $500,000 to create the database.
“In many cases, those with autism can learn to adapt to their disorder when it’s caught at an early age,” added Senator Turner. “With this package of bills, we will further than ever to identify infants with autism and provide people of all ages with the tools they need overcome the challenges of this disease in order to live full and happy lives.”