April 10, 2013 —
April was declared Autism Awareness Month at the Pike County Commissioners meeting in Milford on April 3. Jeannemarie Passaro, president of Pike Autism Support Services (PASS), told those at the meeting that the prevalence ratio of the illness is growing.
Passaro said, “When my son was diagnosed in 1995, the prevalence of autism was one in 10,000. As of two weeks ago, the Centers for Disease Control came out with new numbers, and now one in 50 children will receive a diagnosis. Although the cause is still not known, it’s suspected that there’s a genetic predisposition with environmental factors. Scientists believe that when they finally get a handle on this they will find that there are several causes for autism.”
Passaro enumerated a number of programs that PASS undertakes to help the victims of autism and their families. Most recently, the organization has awarded nine iPads to children with autism. She said, “It’s been proven that an overwhelming number of individuals with autism have been successful in improving their communication skills in conjunction with assistive technology applications.”
Passaro said there is a waiting list of more that 15,000 intellectually disabled Pennsylvania residents who are awaiting services. She said 4,000 on the list have emergency status, meaning that they’re living with elderly caregivers, or they are about to graduate from high school, and no services will be available to them at that point. She said prior to last year, the state government provided no funds for services for three years, and in 2012, the state provided about $17 million, which is enough to cover about 1,000 people on the waiting list.