Improving the Lives of New Jersey's Autistic Youth
Steve Adubato goes on-location to the North Ward Center for the “Autism: A Different Way of Thinking” Forum to talk with Suzanne Buchanan, Executive Director of Autism New Jersey, about supporting families with autistic children and how New Jersey is preparing to have Medicaid coverage available for autism treatment for youth.
"Hi, I'm Steve Adubato. We're coming to you from Newark, New Jersey, in the North Ward Center. This is a series of interviews we're doing as part of a series called Autism: A Different Way of Thinking. We're honored to be joined by Suzanne Buchanan, who is Executive Director, Autism New Jersey, which is? A non-profit organization that serves the entire state. We have an 800 line, (800) 4-AUTISM where parents and professionals can call and get all sorts of information. We educate and inform the community. We try to shape public policy. And if you have any questions about autism, we encourage people to call us. Here's what's interesting. As we were prepping for this series, Suzanne, here's the thing that kept hitting me. Yeah? What is a different way of thinking? How have we been thinking about it? And what should we be thinking about autism? Well I think, you know, one of the advances in the last few years is that we're looking at autism, not just as an educational disability that affects a child during the school day, but as a disability that needs behavioral treatment 24/7, during all waking hours. What does that mean? Give me an example. Of behavioral treatment? Yeah. Sure. So I mean any socially meaningful goal, right? Like if you have a young child with autism who has very limited language, or he's not playing with his brother or sister. So we're gonna go in and observe that child, see where the skill deficits are, identify areas that they can make little improvements, and shape and reinforce those skills along the way. So it's an incredibly complex situation behind the scenes in terms of how the treatment is designed, but for the child, they just experience it as fun. Let me try this one. New Jersey versus the rest of the nation when it comes to a, diagnosing autism? Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Mm hmm. And b, helping those dealing with autism? Sure. You know, I think the good news is that we're a leader in this country in terms of the prevalence rate. Right here in Newark, we have Doctor Walter Zahorodny, who's one of the principal investigators for the CDC prevalence... The Centers for Disease Control? Yes. You're talking about the federal government's role in this? Yes. Exactly. So New Jersey is often one of the 10 to 15 or so states that is included in their federal prevalence estimates, and New Jersey is either the highest or the second-highest, depending on the year, you know, that the publication comes out. The number of cases? Exactly. And so right..."