Foundation looking for public input to help better services for Oklahomans diagnosed with autism

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) - The Oklahoma Autism Center Foundation started 12 years ago; right now, they're looking ahead and asking for public input to help create a 10-year strategic plan.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 59 kids has Autism Spectrum Disorder.

About 11,000 kids in Oklahoma's public schools are being served on the spectrum.

"It's a big population, and we're always looking at ways to improve capacity of services and reach families where they need it the most,” Executive Director of the Oklahoma Autism Center Foundation Emily Scott said.

"We know what matters most to a three-year-old is very different from a 13-year-old and a 23-year-old, so we want to hear what are the issues you are facing? What do you need the most?” Scott said.

They've already held several listening sessions around the state.

One issue Oklahoma children face is not being diagnosed as early as they need to be.

"We want to see kids get diagnosed at 18 months to two years. Unfortunately, the average here in Oklahoma is somewhere between four and five. The national average sits at about three,” Scott said.

Something else that's become apparent is the number of children on the spectrum who will graduate high school soon. Their aging parents will one day not be able to support them.

"We have a lot of kids that are being served in public schools, but they’re all going to graduate soon. They're going to need jobs. They're looking at post-secondary education opportunities, trade schools," Scott said.

Oklahoma Autism Center Foundation hopes to improve those outcomes with the public's help.

Autism CARES Act of 2019 was signed into law last month authorizing $1.8 billion dollars in federal funding to go toward autism research, services and training.

Click here to find the survey.

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