Others in attendance who helped make this possible were Connie Hebert, interim director of the Southeast Missouri State University Autism Center for Diagnosis and Treatment; Elaine Beussink, director of the Tailor Institute; Myra Bax, director of the Judevine Center for Autism- Southeast Missouri Project; Ethan and Friends for Autism parent organization representatives; and officials with the Cape Girardeau and Jackson public school districts.
Autism is a complex brain disorder that inhibits a person's ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by extreme behavioral challenges. Autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed in one in 150 children in the United States, affecting four times as many boys as girls. The diagnosis of autism has increased tenfold in the last decade. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called autism a national public health crisis whose cause and cure remain unknown.
On Dec. 18, 2007, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly adopted resolution 62/139 World Autism Day by unanimous consent, encouraging UN Member States to take measures to raise awareness about autism throughout society, promote early diagnosis and early behavioral intervention, and to celebrate the unique talents and qualities of individuals with autism. World Autism Day, as a United Nations Day, is to be observed every year beginning this year.
Seated in front are Cape Girardeau Mayor Jay Knudtson and Jackson, Mo., Mayor Barbara Lohr. Standing, from left, are Rita Fisher, assistant superintendent for Jackson Schools; Kyla Weaver, skills training specialist for The Tailor Institute; Myra Bax, director of the Judevine Center for Autism- Southeast Missouri Project; Nancy Robertson, skills training specialist for The Tailor Institute; Elaine Beussink, director of the Tailor Institute; David Crowe, parent and founder of The Tailor Institute; Connie Hebert, interim director of the Southeast Missouri State University Autism Center for Diagnosis and Treatment; Dorothy Taylor, president of Southeast Missouri Hospital Auxiliary; Mike and Lana Scortinio, Ethan and Friends representatives; Marilyn Cox, parent with the Thompson Center and representative to the Regional-State Autism Advisory Committee; Jewell Cox, parent with the Thompson Center; Deena Ring, Director of Special Services-Cape Public Schools; Kelley Pujol, music therapist at Judevine; Nicole Smentkowski, training coordinator and supported employment coordinator at Judevine.