Autism awareness: light it up blue on April 2

March 29, 2012 by JoLynne Lyon

Logo for World Autism Awareness DayOnce again, Cache Valley residents are invited to participate in the Light it Up Blue autism awareness night on April 2. Just go to the area around the tabernacle and the emporium in  downtown Logan, from 6 to 7 pm–and wear blue.

If you’ve got blue glow gear, that’s even better.

“There’s no formal start or finish,” said Jill Drysdale, who is promoting the local event.  “It’s just meant as an opportunity to wear blue and mingle.”

The gathering raises local awareness for autism, which is diagnosed at a higher rate in Utah than in any other state. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 44 Utah children were identified with autism (1 in 32 boys and 1 in 85 girls). Autism numbers are up nationwide, with a 23 percent increase since 2009. “Some of the increase is due to the way children are identified, diagnosed and served in their local communities,” according to the CDC, “although exactly how much is due to these factors in unknown.”

The local autism awareness gathering gives people a way to participate in a worldwide event. (For a slide show of world landmark buildings that went blue last year, visit the Light It Up Blue web page.)

For more information on the event, visit the CPD Facebook Page and look for a post from Jill.


Autism Awareness Night

March 1, 2012 by cpehrson

The number of children with autism has continued to grow for the past 15 years.  Utah’s rate appears to be higher than the national average that is 1 in 111.  The number of children identified with autism in Utah doubled from 2002 to 2008.  About two children per day were born with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in 2008. (Salt Lake Tribune, May 2011)

“It is our life,” states Laura Anderson, President-elect of the parent-run Autism Council of Utah and mother of a son with autism.  “If you think autism isn’t going to touch you somehow in your life, you are sadly mistaken. It’s in our communities. It’s in our schools. It will be in our workplaces.”

With autism becoming such a wide-spread disorder and touching so many lives in Utah, the Autism Council of Utah and RC Willey stores have joined up to sponsor Autism Awareness Night at the Utes Gymnastics Meet on March 9, 2012.  Free tickets are available at RC Willey stores or you can contact Laura Anderson for additional tickets at or call 801-936-1810.

Throughout the meet there will be information and videos shown about autism.  All families and friends of autism are invited to attend and support these efforts to raise the awareness of autism and other ASD conditions.


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Introducing Utah’s early childhood Act Early Ambassador

February 17, 2012 by cpehrson



Tracy Golden

Tracy Golden

The CPD would like to introduce Tracy Golden to our Utah readers.  Tracy was recently selected to serve as Utah’s  Act Early Ambassador for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” program.

The Act Early Ambassadors project is designed to develop a network of state-level experts to improve early identification practices for those providing services to very young children. Golden will play an important role in educating Utah’s parents, healthcare professionals, and early educators about early childhood development, warning signs of autism and other developmental disabilities.

Golden, a social worker and licensed mental health therapist, is a trainee with the Utah Regional Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (URLEND) Program through the CPD.  She was selected as an Act Early Ambassador because of her commitment to improving the lives of children and families and increasing access to services for children with developmental disabilities.

The Ambassador’s project is a collaborative effort on behalf of CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD), the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB), and the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD). Fifteen Act Early Ambassadors were selected to serve as state liaisons to the Act Early Initiative and act as a community agents to increase awareness activities and improvement of early identification practices.

Alfred Romeo is the Campaign Coordinator for the “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” (LTSAE) campaign in Utah. He is working with Tracy Golden to help parents learn about healthy development for their newborns and young children. The LTSAE web site offers a variety of tools and checklists that parents and professionals can use when they have concerns about a child’s development.

Tracy can be contacted at for more information and any questions about the campaign in Utah.


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Brown Bag Discussion: Disability in Federal Legislation

February 3, 2012 by cpehrson

brown paper sackThose who attended the latest CPD Brown Bag Discussion got in on a good discussion about a variety of disability issues under consideration in Congress and State legislature.

Marty Blair, Associate Director of the Mountain Plains Regional Resource Center (MPRRC) and Associate Director of the Center for Technical Assistance for Excellence in Special Education (TAESE) at the CPD, led the discussion on Disability in Federal Legislation:  The State of “Stuck.”

He indicated that the federal committees to watch included the  Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) in the House the Education and the Workforce (Republicans) or the Education and Labor (Democrats).

Current issues being considered that will impact individuals with autism and their families include the Combating Autism Act, the proposed changes in the criteria for diagnosing autism, and insurance mandates for autism, which is a state decision… 29 of the 50 states already have a mandate.

Other questions that are being discussed in Congress include: Will there be a separate funding for family support and self-advocacy?  What about funding for adult services, specifically for those on the autism spectrum?  What is “appropriate” education when considering Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)? and Is there ever a need for seclusion and restraint?

After considering some of the current issues that are being discussed in Washington, DC, this sounds like a good time to keep tabs on what is happening; even maybe a time to contact your own representative so your voice will be heard.






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Let’s Talk! about changing the definition of autism

January 24, 2012 by cpehrson

picture of a face focusing on the lips

Rates of autism and related disorders like Asperger syndrome have increased dramatically since the early 1980s. Many researchers suspect that these numbers are rising because of vagueness in the current criteria, which are now under review by an expert panel.

Researchers at Yale University found recently that putting into place the proposed changes in the definition of autism could exclude about three-quarters (up to a million) of those now diagnosed with milder forms of autism called Asperger syndrome.  This could potentially reduce their access to the health, educational, and social services they need.

The proposed revision to the American Psychiatric Association’s definition would take effect in 2013, if approved.

What do you think about these proposed changes?

That is our latest Let’s Talk! topic today.  Tell us what you think about the following questions:

What are the benefits of having a narrower definition for autism?

Do you think having a narrower definition of autism would exclude many from receiving services they need and prevent them from reaching their potential?

Do you think having a narrower definition could permit more specific patient care and treatment to those who need it most?

If your life or your child’s may change if autism is redefined, how are you getting your family ready?

Do you have any advice for families who may face these changes?

The Let’s Talk! blog gives readers a chance to let us know how you feel about the issues and concerns that affect the lives of people with disabilities and their families and to hear what others think.

Please let us know of other topics that you would like to talk about.

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