Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Decoding Autism, and Making It Work

Autism is a major public health crisis. More children will be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder this year than with childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes and pediatric AIDS combined. It is a devastating neurodevelopmental disorder that affects a child’s communication and social skills, ability to empathize and often IQ. There is no clear cause and no cure.

WSBE will air Autism: Making it Work on Wednesday, June 29, and Decoding Autism on Wednesday, July 6. The films begin at 8 p.m. both weeks.

Autism: Making it Work explores the growing needs of adolescent and young adults with autism. In 1991 the number of autism cases increased sharply. That population will begin exiting the school system to enter the general population. What are their needs? What can parents do to plan for their future? What's in place to ensure their success?

Segment One: Transition. In the first segment, host Lillian Vasquez talks with professionals who have worked in the field and followed the cases of children, now nearing adulthood. Author and professor Stephen Shore who was diagnosed with Autism as a child, will share his story of surviving the autism maze, and how he is coping with the demands of our modern society.

Segment Two: Working. A look at a national company that is meeting the challenge head-on by training and employing individuals with disabilities. We'll learn this company?s corporate philosophy and how it was inspired Two young men diagnosed with Autism will share how they like their jobs and learn the challenges they faced when entering the workforce.

Segment Three: Law Enforcement. Then explore how law enforcement and first responders can play a pivotal role with individuals with autism. Dennis Debbaudt (law enforcement training expert) will share the importance of preparing officers and other first responders for the challenges they might face or problems that may occur when dealing with someone with autism. We?ll visit one police department embracing the idea of training and hear one officer's story of how the training made a difference.

Segment Four: Sailing. In the last segment, board a sailboat in Southern California to learn how one man's love of the water and his desire to give back to the autism community allow him and him to take families sailing. Discover how more families with autism can experience sailing and how sailboat owner may get involved.

Nationally, one in 110 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, but in New Jersey, the prevalence rate is one in 94! These alarming statistics have led to an enormous amount of scientific research in an effort to decode the mystery of autism. Scientists are studying the brains, blood and genes of children with autism and looking at the environment to find answers about what causes it.

Decoding Autism, with Emmy Award-winning journalist Sara Lee Kessler, is an hour-long documentary that highlights the efforts underway both in New Jersey and in cities like New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Louisville and Sacramento. Scientists hope to gain insights that will lead to prevention, treatment and even a cure. Decoding Autism also gives viewers a first-hand look at the challenges families face to find help for their children. It is a race against time because it’s well documented that early intervention provides the best hope of lessening the severity of autism spectrum disorders.