NJ's Innovative Approach to Autism Research and Treatment
Steve Adubato goes on-location to the North Ward Center for the “Autism: A Different Way of Thinking” Forum to speak with Dr. Shereef Elnahal, Former Commissioner, New Jersey Department of Health, about the Department’s innovative approaches to autism research, diagnosis and treatment; the importance of investing in services for those with ASD beyond the age of 21; and specific challenges children with autism face in an urban environment.
"Hi, I'm Steve Adubato. We're coming to you from the North Ward Center in Newark, New Jersey. Part of a conversation we're having, a series we're doing on autism. It's called A Different Way of Thinking. We're honored to be joined, once again, he's been with us many times. Doctor Shereef Elnahal, Commissioner of the Department of Health in New Jersey. Good to see you Commissioner. Thank you Steve. The role of the department, the role of the state, when it comes to helping those dealing with the autism challenge is? It's a really important topic Steve, and I appreciate you bringing these group of folks together who focus on it. New Jersey is one of the states that has among the highest autism rates in the country. One in 34 children in New Jersey are diagnosed with autism. A part of that is because we have systems in place that actually allow us to diagnose it more reliably than a lot of other states. But we have to do something about it. And so we have a lot of services at the state level that allow us to do that. Broadly speaking, autism is a condition of social functioning. A delay in normal social behavior that you would expect from a child. And we have systems in place that allow us to detect that earlier than most states in New Jersey. So let me ask you, we have... one of our guests... by the way the Commissioner is joining us on a ten person panel discussion here at the North Ward Center talking about this issue. And one of your colleagues from up at Montclair State, you'll meet her, Doctor Catalano, who said, "It's a good thing on some level that New Jersey diagnoses at a higher rate than other states." Because? Well the earlier you detect autism, the more you can do about it. And very importantly the more you can support the families that have children with autism. What do they need? So they need a lot of support and understanding, number one. How to deal with behavioral changes in their child and allow them to thrive and be as successful as they can be in school, because all of that matters in terms of their education, in terms of their ability to transition into adulthood. And so the earlier you know, the earlier you can get that child the right services. And luckily New Jersey has programs in place that allow for that. So we have the..."