Three years ago, the president proclaimed April 2 as World Autism Awareness Day and called upon the American public to learn more about autism and take a more active role in the support of individuals affected by this developmental condition. Autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) symptoms range from mild to severe and the condition may pose significant communication and behavioral challenges for people affected by it.
The official government estimate states one out of 88 school-age children is affected by autism. Autism Speaks, Inc., the largest organization committed to autism research, places this ratio at one in 50. To date, there is no cure for autism, but research shows that early identification and early intervention can greatly improve a childs development.
The Coast Guard is committed to providing support to Coast Guard personnel who have family members diagnosed with ASD. The family resource specialists in each Health, Safety, and Work-Life (HSWL) Regional Practice are available to provide information and referral to local military and civilian resources and services.
More information about autism and ASD may be obtained at http://www.hhs.gov/autism/ and full text of the Presidential Proclamation is available. The Coast Guard’s Dr. Marta Denchfield, Special Needs Program Manager (CG-1112), or Cmdr. Jerry Mahlau-Heinert at HSWL Service Center are good points of contact for people needing more information. Denchfield may be reached at 202-475-5156 or by email at Marta.E.Denchfield@uscg.mil. Mahlau-Heinert may be reached at 757-628-4795 or by email at Jerald.L.Mahlau-Heinert@uscg.mil.