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The Department of Community Mental Health is aware of the many joys, as well as challenges, people with autism spectrum disorders and their families face in their day-to-day life, at times of transition, and as they move towards and enter adulthood. Our goal in partnership with other county, state, and voluntary providers is to help individuals with autism spectrum disorders be welcomed, integral and active members of their communities, working and living as independently as possible.

Westchester County established an Autism Advisory Committee consisting of both professionals and family members of persons with autism spectrum disorders in response to the county's recognition of the multiple unmet needs of individuals with autism and their families. You can read the initial committee's report (attach link to report) and recommendations and provide us with feedback via email

at .

In addition to supporting the Autism Advisory Committee, other efforts being made by the county to help make Westchester "autism friendly" include:

  • Project Lifesaver: (attach link for more information) In a partnership between Westchester County and Westchester Jewish Community Services, Project Lifesaver provides a tracking device system to be worn by individuals with disabilities and who are at risk for wandering.
  • A new initiative: The Disabilities Access and Functional Needs Emergency Preparedness Advisory Committee is working on an emergency preparedness plan that takes into consideration the particular needs of people with disabilities in the event of an emergency. DCMH staff, as well as family members, participate in this initiative to help direct and sensitize the county's resources to the needs of individuals with autism.

Autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, is a term used to describe a complex developmental brain disorder which is characterized by significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. Children and adults with ASD typically have no physical stigma that would suggest a disability but may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. People with ASD can have minimal support needs or may need significant assistance in order to learn and function on a day-to-day basis.

A diagnosis of ASD now includes several conditions that used to be diagnosed separately: autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (POD-NOS), and Asperger syndrome. These conditions are now all called autism spectrum disorder.

For more detailed information about autism spectrum disorders, The following resources provide more detialed information about this disorder:

 

 

The Autism Advisory Committee, comprised of parents and professionals, was created to assess existing services, pinpoint gaps in the system, advise the county on what new services are needed, and identify possible funding sources.

The Autism Advisory Committee’s full recommendations are available in the committee’s report.

Subsequent to the completion of its original mandate, the committee has agreed to continue its work in an effort to implement some of its recommendations. Along with community partners, the committee expects to focus its efforts on three areas initially, including:

  • Promoting Westchester County as “autism friendly”
  • Exploring training opportunities for providers, family members, first responders and public and private employees
  • Developing a comprehensive roadmap of adult services for individuals with autism spectrum disorders

For more information about the committee, contact .

Annual Autism Fair
The Autism Information Fair is held annually to offer families an opportunity to connect and network with knowlegeable and encouraging professionals and to learn about interventions, services and supports available in Westchester County. Co-sponsored by DCMH and Navigating the Spectrum.

Monitoring bracelets
If you're a family member of a child with autism, you have enough to deal with without having to worry that your child may wander. To ease this worry, we're offering monitoring bracelets to help locate a child who has wandered off. To sign up for this service, download the form, complete it at home, and contact WJCS at (914)761-0600 ext.228.

Resources
We have teamed up with the Autism Speaks to bring you a database of local and national services. If you're a provider, submit your information. If you're a parent looking for resources, research the Family Services Resources by geographical area.

Organizations that would like to publish local events of interest to families affected by autism on the Westchester County Calendar of Events should contact Mary Ellen Torzilli by e-mail at , or by phone at (914) 995-5244.

If you're looking for physical activities for your child, the Miracle League of Westchester has created a special team for children on the autism spectrum. The Miracle League, whose local field is in Hartsdale, aims to make baseball accessible to every child, regardless of disability. Maybe your son or daughter would enjoy a game of ball.

If you're looking for a trusted source for news, information, education, research, advocacy and resources about the promising and ever-changing world of autism spectrum disorders, sign up to receive the quarterly publication, Autism Spectrum News.

Many times parents first suspect a problem when their child does not reach a developmental milestone such as crawling, walking or speaking his or her first word. Parents likewise may not notice early signs of autism since motor development is not usually affected. If you are worried that your child is not developing normally, you should call your pediatrician immediately and discuss your concerns. Make an appointment to meet in person with your child's pediatrician. If you are still concerned after discussing this with your doctor you can call early intervention for an evaluation. If your pediatrician diagnoses delays in any area of development, you can be referred to Westchester County's Early Intervention Program.

Early Intervention Services can help make a difference
Young children learn and develop differently. One baby may walk earlier than another, while another baby might talk first. Often, these differences will even out. But, some children will need extra help.

Look for signs that your infant or toddler might need extra help. Early help makes a difference! If your child does have a delay,,research supports the fact that the earlier you get help, the better.

Where Can Parents Get Help? 
Call the Early Intervention Program at the Westchester County Health Department at (914) 813-5094. You will be put in touch with someone to evaluate your child's development. Then, if your child is eligible, together you'll make a plan to get help for your child - and you.

What Help is Available?
Early intervention services are provided to help your child grow and develop and to help you care for your child. These services, which are provided at no cost to you, include:

  • evaluation services (including hearing and vision screening)
  • home visits; speech, physical and other therapies
  • child development groups
  • family counseling
  • even help with transportation sometimes.

The New York State Department of Health Web site provides in-depth information about the Early Intervention Program.

What Children need early help?
Any child from birth to age three with a developmental delay, disability or condition that affects development may need help. Developmental delays may range from minor delays in speech development to more major delays in children with autism.

We provide this list as a service to professionals and families, who may be looking for additional resources and tools to help them in researching a specific question or in finding general information. We do not endorse any of these services, programs or organizations.