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Autism Awareness Makes Big Gains

Changes in policy and social acceptance mean tangible benefits for those on the spectrum


April 2014

Though autism is not new, broad awareness of it is. Not so long ago autism meant Rain Man to the average American. Autistic individuals were either viewed as a little quirky or hospitalized if severely affected, with few options in between.

Today it's unusual to not have heard of the disorder. There are autism support groups for parents, grandparents and siblings, and social groups for those with autism. Government and health care systems are raising autism as an issue. Even cruise lines are promoting autism-friendly vacations. These and many other positive changes have occurred over the past 15 years and are, in large part, thanks to forces like the Autism Society of Indiana, Indiana Resource Center for Autism, Autism Speaks and outspoken advocates.

Dana Renay, executive director of the Autism Society of Indiana, says among the major gains made is the fact that parents, teachers and physicians are now more willing to talk about autism and not simply justify away its symptoms. Though awareness is just one piece of the autism puzzle, it's key to spurring tangible progress.

Ensuring insurance

Indiana, proudly, made tangible progress in the area of autism treatment in 2001 by passing the first mandate requiring health insurance coverage for individuals with autism. Today 34 states have similar mandates.

"Without a doubt the biggest policy change that has made a tremendous impact on people's lives is the health insurance mandate," said Michele Trivedi, the mom and advocate who led the insurance mandate effort and is now manager of The Arc Insurance Project.

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Tags: In This Issue, Special Needs

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