SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – In 1970, the Autism Society launched a nationwide effort to promote autism awareness and, for the past 51 years, April has been designated as National Autism Awareness Month. 

In an effort to recognize those with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), South Plainfield Mayor Matt Anesh, at a virtual meeting April 5, proclaimed April 2021 as National Autism Awareness Month in the borough. 

“I encourage everyone to observe the month by learning about people with autism, their strengths, abilities and the programs which serve their needs," said Anesh. 

"I would like to thank the mayor and council for recognizing April as Autism Awareness Month," said resident John Bentivenga, accepting the proclamation on behalf of him and his wife, Jennifer, who are parents of an autistic child, as well as the South Plainfield Special Education Advisory Committee and both the borough-based Common Ground Support Group and Buddy Ball organization. "This means so much."

"I would also like to accept [this proclamation] on behalf of Mayor's Wellness," added resident Debbie Boyle who serves on that committee, which typically runs an annual town-wide Autism Awareness event in April. "We have done that event for the last several years but, unfortunately, the senior center is closed and we weren’t able to do that this year."

Autism is a persuasive development disorder that affects the social, learning and behavioral skills. It also affects the areas in the brain that regulate pragmatics of speech and perceptions of others, affecting how people with autism assimilate and express verbal and non-verbal communication and sensory processing. 

While once thought to be a relatively rare disorder that affected only 1 in 10,000 people, more and more health professionals have been diagnosing children on the autism spectrum. According to the Centers for Disease Control's Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM), approximately 1 in 110 children in the United States – and 1 in 41 in New Jersey – have been identified with an ASD. 

“While there is no cure for autism, it is well documented that if individuals with autism receive treatment early in their lives, it is often possible for those individuals to lead significantly improved lives,” said Anesh. 

Councilwoman Christine Faustini noted that National Library Week is being celebrated this year April 4 through April 10 and stated that in April, as well as throughout the year, that the South Plainfield Public Library is dedicated to promoting autism awareness. This month, two events,  PopBox Players Sensory-Friendly Virtual Theatre (for all ages) is planned for April 24 with an 'Autism Has No Look: Putting a Spotlight on the Spectrum' program for parents and caregivers set to take place on April 21. 

"The library takes a very active role…and embraces all the diversity and abilities of the people in the community," said Faustini. 

"We are dedicated to providing programming for all ages and abilities and do take a special interest in services for autistic adults and children," added Library Director Linda Hansen, 

The South Plainfield Borough Council will hold its next meeting on Monday, April 19 at 7 p.m. To attend the virtual session, visit https://boroughofsouthplainfield.my.webex.com and enter code 126 663 1990. 

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