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Easter Seals Notes April's Autism Awareness Month to Highlight Services Available to Families Living With Autism

Need for Heightened Autism Awareness among Hispanic Community as Fewer

Receiving Diagnosis and Support

CHICAGO, April 1, 2008 /PRNewswire/ -- Easter Seals is shining the spotlight on its services for individuals living with autism, among the vast array of services the national nonprofit provides for people with disabilities and their loved ones.

Over the last 20 years, Easter Seals has seen a dramatic increase in the number of children and adults with autism the organization serves. Today, as many as one in every 150 children is diagnosed with autism* -- that's a new diagnosis every 20 minutes -- making autism more prevalent than Down syndrome, childhood diabetes, and childhood cancer combined.

"The prevalence of autism among Hispanics is lower than non-Hispanic ethnic groups (1 in 300 vs. 1 in 150). This is most likely due to under-diagnosis and not that fewer Hispanics have autism," says Nilda M. Morales, Easter Seals' national Hispanic autism spokesperson and executive director of Easter Seals Puerto Rico.

While autism is a baffling, lifelong disability, it is treatable. A basic rule for treating autism is the earlier the intervention, the better. If parents are worried their child may have autism, they should follow their instincts, share their concerns with their pediatrician, get a diagnosis, and seek help from service providers such as Easter Seals. Autism is a lifelong spectrum disorder that affects each individual differently and in varying degrees -- getting the right help at the earliest stage of life can help a child gain the skills he or she needs to be successful.

"There is hope. People living with autism -- at any age -- are capable of making significant progress through personalized interventions and therapy; and, can and do lead meaningful lives," adds Morales.

Critical Need for Services

Every family living with autism faces unique challenges. The fact is, individuals with autism face many road blocks that prevent them from getting the help they need today. The current systems, structures and resources to help people with autism and their families do not adequately meet the growing need:

-- funding for research, therapy and services is largely inadequate;

-- quality services -- especially for adults -- are limited;

-- unemployment among adults with autism persists; and,

-- general knowledge and understanding gaps about autism prevail.

"Services for children with autism who age out of the school system are critical. There is an urgent need for increased funding and services -- especially for adults with autism," says Morales. "We want to help change all of this and make a difference for families living with autism today."

Easter Seals has partnered with the Autism Society of America (ASA) on innovative initiatives to serve all those affected by autism.

"After age 21, federal services often disappear for our citizens, but Easter Seals is there to help," said Lee Grossman, president and chief executive officer, Autism Society of America. "We are excited that Easter Seals is highlighting autism among their services and supports."

Easter Seals + Autism

More than a generation ago, Easter Seals was front and center during the polio epidemic, working tirelessly to help children and adults with polio gain the skills necessary to live independently. And now, Easter Seals is working nationally to provide help, hope and answers to families living with autism today by delivering personalized services and treatments, as well as advocating in Washington DC to encourage Congress to finance research to improve services and supports for people with autism.

Easter Seals affiliates across the country together offer many different kinds of interventions to address the affects of autism. For example, Easter Seals:

-- Provides early intervention and diagnosis for very young children with

developmental delays and autism

-- Works with children with autism, supporting families to find an

approach that deals with the whole child

-- Supports young adults, encouraging them to find meaningful employment

and live independent lives

-- Trains and identifies employment opportunities for working-age adults

with autism

-- Offers structured day programs for older adults with autism

Visit to learn more about autism, find services at an Easter Seals near you, or help Easter Seals change the lives of people living with autism by becoming a donor or volunteer.

About Easter Seals

Easter Seals is the leading non-profit provider of services for individuals with autism, developmental disabilities, physical disabilities and other special needs. For more than 85 years, we have been offering help and hope to children and adults living with disabilities, and to the families who love them. Through therapy, training, education and support services, Easter Seals creates life-changing solutions so that people with disabilities can live, learn, work and play. Support children and adults with disabilities at

*Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2007

Media Contacts:

Becky Lopez, PACO Communications

P: 773.489.1700

Ana Serafin, PACO Communications

P: 773.489.1700

SOURCE Easter Seals
Copyright©2008 PR Newswire.
All rights reserved

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