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Assemblywoman Presents Resolutions As Part of Autism Awareness Month

In recognition of Autism Awareness Month, Assemblywoman Joan Voss on Wednesday visited The Forum School in Waldwick to honor several of New Jersey’s leading schools for autism, all of which are located in Bergen County.

“New Jersey is ground zero in the fight against autism,” said Voss (D-Bergen). “With the highest rate in the country, we need to be doing all we can to increase awareness, research and education. These schools have been on the frontline in that quest and they deserve our recognition and appreciation.”

As part of the event, Voss presented Assembly Resolutions to The Forum School, as well as the Alpine Learning Group in Paramus, and ECLC of NJ in Ho Ho Kus. Representatives and students from the schools were on hand to take part in the event, as well as a representative for U.S. Senator Robert Menendez who also presented the schools with a proclamation.

Voss has been one of the Assembly’s leading advocates for autism awareness, research and treatment, having been personally touched by the disorder in her family. She chose to honor the schools for their outstanding efforts, particularly in light of the fact that New Jersey has the highest autism rate in the country.

Established in 1954, the Forum School provides a supportive educational environment and a structured, stimulating curriculum individually designed for children ages three through sixteen years. The school also offers a health office, consulting staff, social worker, parents’ association, speech department, and occupational and physical therapy.

The Alpine Learning Group, which was established in 1989, provides a supportive educational environment for twenty-nine students ages three to twenty one and continuing vocational training and employment opportunities for eight adults through its Alpine Adult Program. The school also offers home-based services, expert training, in-home supervision, and curriculum development through its Outreach Program and Early Detection and Treatment Program.

Renowned for its many innovative programs, ECLC of New Jersey has implemented the SCERTS model, the Rethink Autism program, a Smart Table, and Smart Boards. The school also offers Dogs from Paws for Autism, a facility dog, an occupational therapist, physical education teacher, therapeutic riding, after-school activities, transition programs, community-based instructions, a supported employment agency, and the PRIDE adult-day program.

According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 94 children in New Jersey is affected by an autism spectrum disorder – the highest rate in the nation. The same report found that 87,000 New Jerseyans are living with a form of autism.

“We have made great strides over the last few years to improve education and awareness of autism, but clearly there is still much more work to be done,” added Voss. “I want to thank each of these schools for their wonderful efforts to help children with autism and autism spectrum disorders become productive adults. I will continue to fight for these issues as long as I am in the legislature.”

Voss has sponsored numerous pieces of legislation designed to address autism, including many that were part of a landmark package signed into law in 2007. Among these laws were: a measure that requires teacher training in awareness and instruction methods for students with autism and other developmental disabilities; a measure establishing the New Jersey Adults with Autism Task Force to study, evaluate, and develop recommendations to meet the needs of adults with autism; one that revamped the Governor’s Council for Medical Research and Treatment of Infantile Autism to address autism issues for people of all ages; another measure that extended funding for autism medical research and treatment through a $1 surcharge for each motor vehicle fine and penalty imposed by the courts; another that required the Department of Health and Senior Services to maintain a registry of reported autism diagnoses; and one that established an Asperger’s Syndrome Pilot Initiative to provide vocational, educational and social training services to persons with Asperger’s Syndrome.