Autism continues to be a growing problem in Ocean County, the state of New Jersey and the entire nation. A report just issued by the Centers for Disease Control found that New Jersey’s autism rate in children has jumped 12 percent. Autism now impacts 1 in every 41 children born in the state.
To call attention to autism, I recently asked our county employees and my fellow elected officials to wear blue as part of the nationwide “Autism Speaks, Light It Up Blue” campaign. But simply calling attention to the problem is not enough.
I join with our congressional delegation in calling for more and better screenings of young children, as well as early intervention for those children diagnosed with autism. As a lifelong educator, I have seen the difference early intervention can make.
However, a new problem is also emerging. A growing number of senior citizens are caring for their autistic adult children. What happens when these seniors are gone? As chairman of Senior Services for Ocean County, I am calling on our leaders from all levels of government to join forces and find a solution to this growing problem.
Parents enjoying their golden years should not have to worry about who will care for their sons and daughters. The time to act is now. Together we can find a solution.
Joseph H. Vicari
Ocean County freeholder