Hwang helps in ‘shining a light’ on autism


State Rep. Tony Hwang participated in Autism Awareness Day at the State Capitol. Shown, from left, are Russ Kenn, executive director, Autism Speaks, New England chapter; Shannon Knall of Autism Speaks, Connecticut chapter, and her son, Jack; Lauren Amendola, executive director, Autism Speaks, Connecticut chapter; Hwang; state Rep. Cathy Abercrombie; Warrior mom Melissa Willette and her children, Aidan and Alison.

State Rep. Tony Hwang participated and interacted with autism advocates and families during a ceremony to celebrate Autism Awareness Day at the State Capitol.

The event allows families, organizations and government leaders speak about the impacts of autism, advancements in treatment and the emotional and therapeutically needed support for people affected by the challenges presented when trying to independently function and live while coping with the wide spectrum of autism on neurological functions.

Hwang joined numerous individuals and families in Connecticut and across the world in raising awareness for autism, the fastest growing serious developmental disability in the United States. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new prevalence numbers citing one in every 68 children is diagnosed with autism, including one in every 42 boys.

Boys are four times as likely to be diagnosed with autism as girls, and this disorder affects all races, ethnicities and social groups. This represents a 30% increase in autism prevalence since their last report of autism prevalence in 2012. That is more children than those affected by pediatric cancer, diabetes and AIDS combined.

Hwang championed through autism legislation in 2012, ensuring there are no gaps in coverage for those with autism regardless of what changes happen to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual or to the Affordable Care Act as a result of the landmark insurance statute passed in the Connecticut General Assembly in 2008.

“Throughout my years as a state representative, I have seen many issues come and go,” Hwang said. “As the diagnosis rate of autism increases, I have more and more families coming to me with their stories and asking for my support, and I’ve been compelled to share that with my colleagues.

“It is through the groundswell of parents and their grassroots advocacy that the legislature has begun to embrace autism as a policy and something that impacts just about every aspect of life — from education to employment to housing,” he said. “It is encouraging to me to see my colleagues see the issue as I see it, as a human issue.”

“We are very thankful to all the legislators and state officials for joining this effort to raise autism awareness in April and hopefully beyond,” said Russ Kenn, executive director of the New England chapter of Autism Speaks. “Our goal is to change the future for those who struggle with autism and unfortunately, that number is growing significantly. We want to help each individual reach their potential and this initiative is part of doing that.”

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