July 2, 2007

Autism: An Epidemic, Worse Than Polio Was in the 1950s

The University of New Mexico Center for Development & Disability and the city of Albuquerque are partnering to host the state's first town hall meeting on autism.

Mayor Martin Chavez will host the meeting at the Albuquerque Convention Center from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 11. The forum is open to the public.

The partnership behind this grassroots initiative is the first ever between the city and UNM, said Maryellen Missik-Tow, a development specialist at the CDD.

The mayor is inviting all leaders from New Mexico to this forum, including local, state and federal representatives, industry leaders, community advocates, educational institutions and parents.

Missik-Tow, who calls autism "an epidemic, worse than polio was in the 1950s," said she is particularly eager to have business leaders attend so they can learn about the impact of autistic children on employees, who might pay $25,000 to $30,000 out-of-pocket per year to provide treatment for their children. She also hopes to recruit corporate investment in a planned state-of-the-art Autism Center for Excellence.

"People are leaving our state because we have no services [for autistic children]," Missik-Tow said.

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