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Autism Acceptance Month highlights resources and awareness to promote a more inclusive Michigan
April 04, 2022
To spotlight and celebrate the many ways individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder enrich our world, and to foster acceptance and inspire Michiganders to work together to create a more welcoming and inclusive state for all, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer joins the Michigan Departments of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO), Education (MDE), Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and Autism Alliance of Michigan to proclaim April as Autism Acceptance Month.
“Being an inclusive state means creating and supporting opportunities for everyone to reach their full potential, from a great education where they develop new skills, to a good-paying job where they can apply those skills to support themselves and their families," said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. "Michigan is dedicated to providing Michiganders with Autism and their families and caregivers with the support they need to live a full, productive, and rewarding life here in our great state. I encourage everyone to raise awareness about Autism, promote acceptance, and be more inclusive in everyday life.”
Autism Spectrum Disorder is the fastest growing developmental disability in the U.S., affecting more than five million people with an incidence rate of 1/44, per recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveillance estimates. Youth with autism have been identified as the primary emerging population of individuals with a disability in Michigan that is either currently or predicted to be underserved.
Symptoms and characteristics of Autism can vary significantly from one individual to the next and may result in significant, lifelong challenges in areas of learning, social-interactive behaviors and understanding verbal as well as nonverbal communication. People with Autism can also present with exceptional skills and talents. Most long to be accepted, included and supported in their communities where they can live as independently as possible.
“We applaud Governor Whitmer in her efforts to raise awareness and acceptance for people with autism,” said Autism Alliance of Michigan President and CEO Colleen Allen. “As a state committed to the creation of more diverse, inclusive and equitable (DEI) communities, we encourage all Michiganders to consider a definition of DEI which encompasses neurodiversity and autism.”
Autism Alliance of Michigan, LEO, MDE and MDHHS all have resources for individuals with autism, ranging from identification and diagnosis, to support and intervention. While treatments and education for children are critical towards improving outcomes for this population, eventually, individualized and customized support, comprehensive training and better advocacy and outreach strategies are needed to obtain, maintain and advance employment opportunities.
“Michigan’s workforce is strengthened by the contributions made by individuals with Autism, and we work hard to support employment opportunities,” said LEO’s Office of Employment and Training Director Stephanie Beckhorn. “Our vocational rehabilitation programs are well-equipped to assist individuals with Autism in identifying their personal and professional goals and providing them with the right supports and services to help them achieve success.”
“The Michigan Department of Education’s Office of Special Education is proud to fund the Statewide Autism Resources and Training (START) project as one of our grant funded initiatives,” said Dr. Scott Koenigsknecht, MDE Deputy Superintendent. “For over 20 years, this work has changed the lives of thousands of young people on the autism spectrum."
The START project is housed in the Grand Valley State University Autism Education Center and provides evidence-based training, technical assistance and coaching support, and resources to school-based teams in Michigan that support students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). START is a statewide collaborative effort to make systems level changes to improve the educational programming and quality of life for students with ASD.
“Autism Awareness Month is a great opportunity to show our support for persons, families and caregivers of those who are affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder,” said Elizabeth Hertel, MDHHS Director. “I am committed to ensuring MDHHS offers necessary resources, support and accommodations for those living with ASD.”
Among the many services MDHHS provides to eligible Medicaid beneficiaries diagnosed with ASD are applied behavioral analysis; community living supports; family support and training; financial intermediary; enhanced pharmacy; environmental modifications; housing assistance; skill building; specialized medical equipment & supplies; supported/integrated employment; respite care and vehicle modifications.
Discover the mission and resources of Autism Alliance of Michigan by visiting AutismAllianceOfMichigan.org. You can learn more about how LEO, MDE and MDHHS support individuals with autism by visiting Michigan.gov/LEO, MDE’s Special Education website or Michigan.gov/Autism.