Acting to fulfill the promise of broader opportunities and fuller lives for people with autism, Governor Chris Christie returned to Somerset Hills Learning Institute today to see firsthand the progress being made at the facility in providing students with the necessary skills to lead more independent and productive lives. During his visit, Governor Christie emphasized the commitment made in his Fiscal Year 2103 Budget to continue the many programs, services and support offered to individuals with autism and their families that make New Jersey one of the best systems in the nation for identifying, diagnosing and caring for individuals with autism.
"Nearly three years ago when I first visited the Somerset Hills Learning Institute, I made a commitment to make New Jersey a better state for everyone," said Governor Christie. "That means ensuring students with special needs are able to meet their full potential by preparing them with life skills, as well as creating opportunities for future employment, productivity and independence. I'm proud of the strides my Administration is making everyday to improve programs and services for children and adults with autism. I want to thank Kevin Brothers, Executive Director of the Institute and his staff for the good work being accomplished at Somerset Hills to help students realize their potential with quality educational instruction and treatment, and for their families, peace of mind and hope."
Somerset Hills Learning Institute provides a broad spectrum of services to children and adults with autism. Staff provides scholastic and behavioral instruction that readies students for adulthood using scientifically based applied behavioral analysis (ABA) techniques. Students receive one-to-one instruction, have an individualized curriculum, get on-site, hands-on supervision as well as home programming and transitional programs to integrate children into traditional education settings.
To strengthen communication between parents and children, parent instruction services also are provided. In 2009, the Institute developed a job sampling program to help students gain an array of employment skills for future employment. In addition, the Institute will begin serving adults in May when its eldest student becomes 21.
The Christie Administration continues to act on a strong commitment to support individuals with autism and their families:
· Making autism outreach a priority by supporting the Department of Human Service's Office of Autism;
· Protecting funding for the Department of Health's Autism Registry to make it easier for families to be connected to the appropriate diagnostic treatment and support services in their community;
· Continuing to support families with children with developmental delays and disabilities from birth to age three with the Department of Health's Early Intervention Program services, including developmental intervention, speech, physical and occupational therapy;
· Providing transition services for adults with dedicated funding for young adults with developmental disabilities who age out of the Department of Education's special education entitlement by ensuring a seamless transition to the Department of Human Services' adult day-programming;
· Protecting funding that helps to create employment opportunities for New Jerseyans with disabilities through programs such as Vocational Rehabilitation Services and NJ WorkAbility;
· Providing for a realignment of programs for children with disabilities or in need of behavioral health services to occur in order to enable the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to provide family-oriented support services that care for the whole child.
In addition, since Fiscal Year 2011, nearly $140 million in new funding has been dedicated to the development of community initiatives, including nearly $50 million in Olmstead funding; about $13 million in funding for Community Care Waiver waiting list services; just over $77 million in respite, day programs, in-home supports and residential placements; and, an estimated $2 million in funding to assure services to adolescents who have aged out of educational entitlements.
This month, the Christie Administration is recognizing National Autism Awareness Month to highlight and increase participation in the many programs, services and support offered by the State to individuals with autism and their families. Autism, a biologically-based disorder that affects the development and functioning of a person's verbal and non-verbal communication skills, social interactions and patterns of behavior, touches about 1 in 50 children in New Jersey, impacting many families across the Garden State.