New legislation in Albany will help those in the Finger Lakes dealing with autism

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed a bill with a number of new requirements aimed at supporting people affected by autism.

Due to legislation announced Wednesday by bill sponsor state Sen. Michael Nozzolio, R-Fayette, the state must provide “additional focus and potential funding to help diagnose, treat, and provide essential services for families dealing with autism,” Nozzolio stated.

For one, the bill requires formation of a Autism Spectrum Disorders Advisory Board. The 19-member board will consist of representatives from numerous state agencies, experts in the field of autism and community advocates. It will be tasked with “determining a strategy to better disseminate information and resources to families and individuals who are living with an autism spectrum disorder,” stated the senator.

“Autism continues to be the fastest-growing developmental disability in the United States. There are literally hundreds of families in the Finger Lakes region affected by autism. This new Autism Spectrum Disorders Advisory Board will present a vital opportunity to improve the support services that are already provided to aid those who are living with these disorders,” he added.

Autism has become more common than childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes, and pediatric AIDS combined. One in 68 children (1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls) are identified as having an autism spectrum disorder, according to Nozzolio, who authored the bill.

The new Advisory Board must submit a report annually to the governor, the temporary president of the Senate and the speaker of the Assembly. The report must include recommendations aimed at improving current resources to aid those with autism spectrum disorders and their families.

The legislation also requires study and review of how effective supports and services are for people diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, as well as identifying new ways to improve existing services.

Mary Boatfield is president and chief executive officer of Happiness House, an organization that supports those with disabilities in Ontario, Seneca, Yates and Wayne counties. She praised Nozzolio’s efforts that she said have resulted in as number of gains in helping those with autism. Those efforts included establishing Happiness House Autism Diagnostic and Evaluation Clinic, which provides families with comprehensive diagnosis and treatment options. She said Nozzolio also hosted public discussions on the issue throughout the region, and “co-sponsored and successfully fought to enact legislation requiring accident and health insurance companies to provide coverage for screening, diagnosis and treatment for patients on the autism spectrum.”


By the numbers

1 in 68 Children identified as having autism spectrum disorder

1 in 42 Boys

1 in 189 Girls

SOURCE: State Sen. Michael Nozzolio, R-Fayette