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April Showers Attention on National Autism Month

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Keystone Human Services expands Autism Services to meet increasing needs of Community

(Harrisburg, PA – April 1, 2010) – The number of individuals with autism is rising significantly. In fact, the Pennsylvania Autism Census Project anticipates that the number of persons with autism across their lifespan in our state will rise to at least 25,000 by the close of 2010. The report also illustrates that the number of adults with autism will grow to more than 10,000 by 2014. These are not just numbers they are our family members, friends, neighbors.

For generations, individuals with autism were misdiagnosed, or supported with services not designed specifically to meet their complex needs. Experts now recognize that children and adults with autism often have normal IQs that disqualify them from intellectual disability programs, but they may still exhibit challenging behaviors and need appropriate supports to navigate social situations. For some, these issues are even more complex when combined with physical challenges.

However, we also know that when provided with appropriate supports children and adults with autism have a tremendous aptitude to be part of the community at large, improve their overall quality of life and gain increased independence. The good news is that for individuals who are living with autism, a new era offering skilled and meaningful support has arrived.

Comments Mr. Robert Baker, CEO of Keystone Autism Services, an agency of Keystone Human Services (KHS), “With autism now affecting 1 in every 100 individuals born in America, this complex and often misunderstood condition is finally receiving the recognition it deserves. The fact that our government has designated April as National Autism Awareness Month speaks to the importance of appropriate services and supports being available to meet the growing need.”

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As a leading provider of human services, Keystone is often selected by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to provide services for emerging populations that require skilled support to live in the community. With the State’s support, Keystone has a history of providing professional services to adults with a secondary diagnosis of autism, most of whom entered the system with a primary diagnosis of intellectual disabilities or mental illness. Keystone is also providing services to those who are entering the system with a primary diagnosis of an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Now that autism has achieved the status of a separate and distinct condition that requires highly specialized support, providing these specific services has become one of Keystone’s primary areas of expertise.

“Autism services for individuals across the lifespan can now be accessed through a wide variety of specialized programs within our family of agencies,” continues Baker.

“Keystone Children & Family Services (KC&FS), our largest agency, houses the Keystone Center for Children with Autism. As part of this agency’s early intervention services, Keystone’s experts conduct assessments that can properly identify autism in a young toddler. Research has proven that the earlier a child is diagnosed, the better the chances are for positive outcomes.

“Once a diagnosis of autism is confirmed, an individualized goal plan is developed, and the family is given assistance in accessing community supports and resources. Some diagnosed children continue with Keystone, receiving such services as speech therapy, physical therapy and occupational therapy. Keystone’s Capital Area Head Start program also serves children with this type of developmental delay.”

Having attracted top experts in the field, the Keystone Center for Autism has been operational since 2008. But with the growing number of adults needing autism-specific supports, Keystone began looking for ways to expand its ability to provide services across the lifespan. Keystone is now a provider of two adult programs: The Adult Community Autism Program (ACAP) and the Adult Autism Waiver.

In 2009, the Bureau of Autism Services, PA Department of Public Welfare, selected Keystone Autism Services (KAS) to spearhead a new program for adults living in the community with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). A subdivision of Keystone Human Services, KAS implements the Adult Community Autism Program (ACAP) in Dauphin, Cumberland, Lancaster and Chester counties.

The first of its kind in the nation, ACAP is designed to assist adults with an ASD participate in their communities in the way that they want to. Groundbreaking in both its mission and its methods, ACAP is not designed to provide full-time services, nor is it a residential program. Instead, it provides integrated physical, behavioral and community services with the goal of increasing the quality of life for both the person and their family. Training, individual goals and a team approach are central to the program. ACAP is now enrolling adults living in one of the four counties, who are eligible for Medical Assistance and are at least 21 years of age.

Keystone Human Services is also a service provider in the Bureau of Autism Services Adult Autism Waiver. Like ACAP, this innovative waiver program is designed specifically for adults with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and has the same goal of increased independence and improved quality of life for the person and their family. Training, individual goals and a team approach are also central to the program, but are available throughout the Commonwealth. The Adult Autism Waiver is now enrolling adults who are eligible for Medical Assistance and are at least 21 years of age.

Pennsylvania has a proud history of pioneering community-based services for individuals with disabilities and mental illness, and Keystone Human Services is honored to play a continuing role in bringing dignified support to thousands of individuals and families throughout the Commonwealth and beyond.

Further information about Keystone’s autism services is available by calling (717) 412-7400 or visiting www.keystonehumanservices.org. With headquarters in Harrisburg, KHS employs over 3,000 people who are dedicated to supporting individuals with autism, intellectual disabilities and mental illness as well as vulnerable children and families throughout Pennsylvania, Connecticut, parts of Delaware and Maryland and in regions of Moldova and Russia. Keystone also consults with human service entities in Azerbaijan and South Africa.

Bringing approximately $130,000,000 in services to communities world-wide, Keystone Human Services and its family of agencies are dedicated to creating an environment where all people, regardless of background and ‘ability,’ can grow, make choices, and be valued and contributing members of their community.

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