Efforts to advance the conversation on autism issues and strengthen support for a legislative plan to unlock the potential of thousands of New Yorkers have led to a new day in New York State.
Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara hosted the first Autism Action Day at the State Capitol, and is proposing legislation to have April 13 formally recognized as Autism Action Day each year in the state of New York.
On Tuesday, April 12, Santabarbara introduced an Assembly resolution that once again recognizes April as Autism Awareness Month in New York State.
Autism Action Day 2016 took place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, April 13, on the 3rd Floor Terrace in the Legislative Office Building, with the formal program beginning at 10 a.m.
Assemblyman Santabarbara kicked off the discussion with an overview of his legislative packaged called Autism Action NY, which includes a series of bills aimed at increasing employment opportunities; expanding independent housing options; improving access to technology; communication; and, most importantly, creating a centralized location for services in New York with the state’s first Autism Spectrum Disorder Advisory Board.
Santabarbara, whose 14-year-old son, Michael, was diagnosed with autism at age 3, also unveiled the newest addition to Autism Action NY, which would create a training program for firefighters, law enforcement officers and emergency medical services personnel specific to emergency situations involving individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other developmental disabilities that may affect communication.
“About 1 in 68 children in the United States are living with autism, and at some point it will be 1 in 68 adults,” said Santabarbara, who was recently appointed to chair the Assembly’s Subcommittee on Autism Retention. “Whether you are a self-advocate or have a family member, friend or someone in your community affected by autism, Autism Action Day is an opportunity to join the conversation and add your voice to a statewide call for action that we hope will become a nationwide, or even worldwide, event in the years to come – but it all starts here.”
The day of action, which was free and open to the public, included representatives from local organizations from Schenectady and Montgomery counties such as Schenectady ARC and Liberty ARC and the Autism Society of the Greater Capital Region, statewide groups like the New York State Association of Community & Residential Agencies (NYSACRA) and New York State Industries for the Disabled (NYSID), Wildwood School and Crossroads Center for Children.
ABC News 10 anchor Christina Arangio served as emcee for the day’s events, with comments from self-advocates in attendance who shared their day-to-day challenges and first-hand experiences from their own communities.
At the event, Santabarbara also presented the first annual Autism Action Award to Sara Mae Hickey, owner and founder of Puzzles Bakery & Cafe in Schenectady, which recently celebrated its one-year anniversary and is a full-time employer of adults with developmental disabilities, creating opportunities for personal growth and independence.
Santabarbara added, “We must do everything we can to provide those affected by autism with the support and resources needed to help engage the community on their own terms. Now is the time and this is the day to take action.”