Autism public hearings at EMU stress need for therapy, early prevention

by Pamela Young, Published May 27, 2010

YPSILANTI - Twenty-five years ago, only one in 2,500 children was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Now, one in 110 children are diagnosed.

“We don’t know the reason for the increase, but there will be a “tsunami” if the current generation of kids don’t get needed therapy,” said Lorri Unumb, senior policy adviser and counsel for Autism Speaks, an advocacy group.

Unumb was one of several panelists who spoke at the first of four public hearings May 24, to explore health insurance issues and other problems facing families with autistic children.

 State Sens. Randy Richardville of Monroe and Liz Brater of Ann Arbor, hosted the bipartisan event at Eastern’s Autism Collaborative Center (ACC), which attracted more than 100 experts, parents and students.

Richardville opened the session by welcoming the audience and then summarized why the hearings are critical.

“These hearings will help educate the public about the needs of families dealing with autism, and what it means financially and emotionally when seeking treatment,” said Richardville, who co-chairs the hearings with State Sen. Tupac Hunter of Detroit. “Sen. Hunter, who was unable to make it today, has been a leader in the Senate for this issue.”

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurobiological disorder that affects an individual’s communication skills, learning, social interaction and behavior.

“We’re excited that the senators chose the Autism Collaborative Center for the first hearing,” said Pamela Lemerand, an Eastern Michigan assistant professor of health science and director of the center.

 Eastern Michigan’s center, which opened in 2009 in the former Fletcher School, currently provides services for more than 100families.

The importance of early intervention and expanded health care coverage were the main themes stressed by panelists.

Pamela Young

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