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Published: Wednesday, July 07, 2010, 8:16 PM    Updated: Thursday, July 08, 2010, 5:45 AM

Susan K. Livio/Statehouse Bureau

TRENTON – Parents raising children with autism need help. This much, the family advocacy group Autism New Jersey understood.

But when the group launched an unprecedented survey interviewing hundreds of families about what kind of help they needed, Autism New Jersey got a surprising response.

The survey, to be released Thursday, showed more than 60 percent of the families said the group should become a force at the Statehouse to fight their cause.

“In order to make meaningful change, they told us to change Trenton,’’ said executive director Linda Meyer.

Parents in New Jersey — where the autism rate is highest in the nation — are often too consumed with looking for therapy or educational or vocational programs for their child to solve the red tape of government-funded services, Meyer said. “So often, families are very negative and frustrated and challenged by the system,” she said.

Starting today, Autism New Jersey will distribute the report to the Legislature, to members of Gov. Chris Christie’s cabinet, and to local elected leaders. It’s a parents’ wish list, minus angry finger-pointing to keep the message positive, Meyer said.

“We are looking to improve the future. We wanted to hear what part of the system works,’’ Meyer said. “You can’t throw away an entire system.”

The group conducted in-depth interviews with 537 people, nearly 70 percent parents or grandparents and the rest teachers, doctors or other professionals. Every county was represented; nearly half the participants live in Bergen, Mercer and Middlesex.

Kim Cristo of North Haledon, whose daughter has autism, said the report “outlines every worry a parent has about a child on the autism spectrum. It’s such a puzzle, so enigmatic. If you know there are services for your child, it’s comforting.’’

Read in Full: http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/07/autism_support_group_to_releas.html



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