On April 1, 2011, President Barack Obama signed a proclamation marking April 2 World Autism Awareness Day, and a little more than two years later, the Hernando County School Board voted unanimously to recognize the proclamation earlier this month.
School Superintendent Bryan Blavatt said the agenda item was a proclamation from the board recognizing the presidential proclamation designating April 2 as World Autism Awareness Day, and the month of April as Autism Awareness Month.
“Men and women on the autism spectrum have thrived and excelled in communities across America and around the world,” the president’s proclamation reads. “Yet, despite great progress in understanding ASDs (autism spectrum disorders), challenges remain for these individuals and their loved ones. For too long, the needs of people living with autism and their families have gone without adequate support and understanding.”
According to an executive summary of the agenda item, Florida Department of Education recognizes April as Autism Awareness Month, which is why the Division of Exceptional Student Education requested Hernando County Schools also recognize April as Autism Awareness Month, and April 2 of each year as World Autism Awareness Day, to recognize the contributions of individuals with ASDs and to better understand and respond to autism.
Included was a memorandum written to a number of exceptional student education directors by Monica Verra-Tiredo, chief of the Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services. The memorandum listed a number of online resources available, including those from the Centers for Autism and Related Disabilities, Partnership for Effective Programs for Students with Autism, and free modules addressing evidence-based practices from Autism Internet Modules.
Verra-Tiredo said a local school board making or adopting a proclamation demonstrates the importance of that issue to its community, stakeholders, parents and teachers.
“The whole idea of autism awareness is increasing the community’s awareness,” Verra-Tiredo said. “It’s an emerging disability area we haven’t historically as a society known about, and the idea of the proclamation is to help our school districts make sure they know what resources are out there, and get them in the hands of parents and school staff.”
The president’s proclamation notes that, with Department of Health and Human Services taking the lead, investments in autism research have expanded, as well as public health tracking, early detection and services ranging from early intervention for children, to improved long-term services and support programs for adults.
“We will continue to work with the Congress, experts, and families to improve federal and state programs that assist individuals with ASDs and their families and to bolster the impact and reach of community support and services,” the proclamation stated.
Nearly 1 percent of children in the United States are affected by ASDs, which have become a public health issue.
Board member John Sweeney noted at the beginning of the board’s discussion that he was recently able to attend an autism awareness event sponsored by the district.
“I did get to attend the autism event out at Springstead High School, and it was awesome,” Sweeney said. “So many great groups, so many great things the community’s doing, and I was very impressed.”
The proclamation passed 4-0 with board member Dianne Bonfield absent. It had no financial impact.
The presidential proclamation encourages Americans to visit www.HHS.gov/autism for more information and resources on ASDs.