Maryland Autism Summit
July 10, 2009
Thank you very much, it is great to be here this morning with all of you. I especially want to thank Speaker Busch, who is a great champion of the issue we’re here to discuss today.
It’s an issue that really touches the soul of our State – how we can help and protect the thousands of Marylanders who experience this great affliction known as autism, and how we can support their families.
I would also like to thank Mark Benton and everyone with the Milbank Memorial Fund for their work on making today possible, and on this issue that all of us care so much about.
I’ve now had the opportunity to serve as Governor for two and a half years, and with each day I become more and more convinced that for all the diversity with makes our State strong, there is more that unites us than divides us. We’re united by a sense in our collective conscience that there is no such thing as a spare Marylander, and we are united by our belief in the dignity of every individual. We’re united by our belief in our own responsibility to advance the common good. And we are united in our understanding that there is a unity to spirit and to matter, and that the things we do in our own lifetimes matter.
From these values flow our shared priorities – to strengthen and grow our middle class; to improve public safety and public education in every part of our State; and to expand opportunity: the opportunity to learn, to earn, and to enjoy the health of the people we love and the environment we love.
Our efforts on autism are interwoven with so many of these priorities – public health, our environment, public education, the strength of our middle class. I wanted to share with you a little bit about these efforts and why all of us would agree that they matter so deeply.
Maryland and Autism
Our efforts together matter because across our country, 1 in every 150 American children is born with Autism, and 600,000 American adults live with this condition. Here in Maryland, we know of approximately 7,500 children who are Autistic – and I say “approximately” because the true number may be higher with many cases going undiagnosed.
Our efforts together matter because, for as prevalent as Autism is in our country, it is often misunderstood.
Our efforts together matter because in order to provide our fellow citizens with the treatments and research that can make a difference, there needs to be a greater awareness, not just in Maryland, but throughout our country.
Because we know that these efforts matter, many of us in this room today worked very hard to pass legislation this session which created our statewide Commission on Autism – and no one worked harder than Speaker Busch – who has been a leading voice on these important efforts.
The Commission will be charged with developing strategic recommendations for how we as a State – as One Maryland – can improve services for children and adults who have Autism, including health care, education and other services. And it will be tasked with creating a statewide plan for integrating our training, treatment, and services as well as our efforts to raise awareness.
The Commission will be comprised of a broad cross-section of Marylanders, including Autistic adults, parents of Autistic children, medical professionals, clinical and therapeutic professionals, service providers, the higher education community, and representatives from government.
In addition to passing this legislation, which I signed in May, together as One Maryland, we have also advanced this cause forward by increasing funding for our Infants & Toddlers Program by nearly $9 million
Early intervention, of course, being critical for children diagnosed with autism – helping them to succeed in school and develop independent learning skills.
Together as One Maryland, we have also made important investments in places like the Kennedy Krieger Institute ($9 million), which is a leader in Autism Research.
And together as One Maryland, we’ve made a three year, $56 million investment in stem cell research, which we hope and pray will lead to breakthroughs in Autism research and an array of treatments and cures for other afflictions.
The work we are doing on Autism and for our vulnerable neighbors here in Maryland truly does matter. And from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank all of you for the work that you are doing. For reminding us that one person can make a difference and that each of us must try.
Now, we’re not done. We are by no means done. The march, the journey, the progress of any great people is never done. But together we are making progress, secure in the belief that God wants every partial victory.