Autism is a spectrum disorder that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. Each individual person is unique with unique character, abilities, and challenges. To be sure each person is provided the supports they need to achieve their personal best, programs and services need to be diverse, accessible, and adaptable. We work to ensure there is continuous growth in opportunities for everyone, regardless of where they are on the autism spectrum.
Autism statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) March 2014 report, identify around 1 in 68 American children as on the autism spectrum–a ten-fold increase in prevalence in 40 years. Careful research shows that this increase is only partly explained by improved diagnosis and awareness. Studies also show that autism is four to five times more common among boys than girls, with an estimated 1 out of 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls being diagnosed in the United States.
Autism affects over 2 million individuals in the U.S. and tens of millions worldwide. Additionally, government autism statistics suggest that prevalence rates have increased 10 to 17 percent annually in recent years. There is no established explanation for this continuing increase.
As the numbers have continued to increase, the need for the amount of services and supports continue to grow. We consistently monitor, measure, and anticipate needs to ensure the growth in programs and supports are in sync with our community.
We use information collected through community assessments and family feedback to guide our efforts, focus, and funding.
As our community became more aware about autism and the benefits of early diagnosis and treatment, the need of early intervention services increased significantly.
In 2008, we provided the initial funding to assist the Mercy Autism program to grow their CHIP autism program from a part-time intervention to a full-time Early Intervention Program, the first of its kind in NW Ohio.
In 2010, we began working in partnership with Toledo Children’s Hospital to bring a “mirror” site of Cleveland Clinic’s autism early learning program to Toledo. The Toledo Children’s Hospital Autism Early Learning Program opened in January 2012 to serve little ones age diagnosis through 6 years.
In 2011, families in our community with adolescents and young adults expressed difficulty finding adequate after-school and summer programs for their children. We collaborated with the Autism Model School and Toledo Children’s Hospital to establish an after school program for adolescents and young adults with autism ages 13-22 years, the first of its kind in Northwest Ohio.
In addition, we worked with Autism Model School and St. Francis De Sales High School to develop, fund and execute a Peer Collaborative Program that would further add social opportunities and interaction. This program provided hands-on training for “typical” high school peers to provide them with the tools and skills to work with our adolescents and young adults with autism. The peer collaborative program has provided both our typical students and our students with autism, tremendous growth in confidence, social skills, and empathy.
In 2010 our community service providers began expanding their programs to meet the needs of families. As we began working with partners, we realized our community was flush with great speech therapists and occupational therapists, however we only had 2 Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) in Northwest Ohio. As a result, we developed, executed, and secured funding to begin a community initiative providing professionals the opportunity to have BCBA tuition costs reimbursed and access to in-kind BCBA supervision hours. This initiative has increased our number to 8 BCBA professionals now in Northwest Ohio with the goal of adding an additional 4 within the next year.