Autism Acceptance Month promotes a more inclusive Michigan

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LANSING, Mich. — To foster acceptance and inspire Michiganders to work together to create a more welcoming and inclusive state for all, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer joins the Michigan Departments of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO), Education (MDE), Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Autism Alliance of Michigan to proclaim April as Autism Acceptance Month.

“Autism Acceptance Month is an opportunity for all Michiganders to advocate and practice acceptance for people with autism,” said Gov. Whitmer. “We are focused on creating opportunities for everyone to reach their full potential, including Michiganders living with autism. Let’s work together to provide information and resources for communities to be more aware of autism, promote acceptance, and be more inclusive in everyday life.”

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is the fastest growing developmental disability in the U.S., affecting more than five million people with an incidence rate of 1/44, per recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveillance estimates. Youth with autism have been identified as the primary emerging population of individuals with a disability in Michigan that is either currently or predicted to be underserved.

Symptoms and characteristics of autism can vary significantly from one individual to the next and may result in significant, lifelong challenges in areas of learning, social-interactive behaviors and understanding verbal as well as nonverbal communication. Acceptance and inclusion are key to an individual’s independence in their community. Many individuals with autism possess and learn exceptional skills and talents valuable to the business community.

“Michigan is posed to be a top state to live if you or a family member has autism,” said Colleen Allen, President and CEO of the Autism Alliance. “Our efforts to reduce the age of diagnosis and access to services is a critical first step, followed by a high quality, inclusive education. Ultimately, we want autistic persons to live the life they choose, and to be fully supported on that journey.”

LEO, MDE, MDHHS, Autism Alliance of Michigan and many other community providers across the state have resources for individuals with autism, ranging from identification and diagnosis, to support, training and intervention. While treatments and education for children are critical towards improving outcomes for this population, eventually, individualized and customized support, comprehensive training and better advocacy and outreach strategies are needed to obtain, maintain and advance employment opportunities.

“Individuals with autism play an important role in strengthening and diversifying our state’s workforce,” said LEO’s Office of Employment and Training Director Stephanie Beckhorn. “We work hard to support employment opportunities for people with autism. Our vocational rehabilitation programs assist individuals with autism in identifying their personal and professional goals and providing them with the right supports and services to help them achieve success.”

MDE’s Statewide Autism Resources and Training (START) project is housed in the Grand Valley State University Autism Education Center and provides evidence-based training, technical assistance and coaching support, and resources to school-based teams in Michigan that support students with ASD. START is a collaborative effort to make systems level changes to improve the educational programming and quality of life for students with ASD.

“The Michigan Department of Education is proud to partner with organizations like the Autism Alliance of Michigan, the Statewide Autism Resources and Training project in the Grand Valley State University Autism Education Center, and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and many others as we work to create opportunities for those with autism to be independent and experience a true sense of belonging as they progress through the stages of their lives,” said Dr. Scott Koenigsknecht, deputy superintendent at the Michigan Department of Education.

Among the many services MDHHS provides to eligible Medicaid beneficiaries diagnosed with ASD are applied behavioral analysis; community living supports; family support and training; financial intermediary; enhanced pharmacy; environmental modifications; housing assistance; skill building; specialized medical equipment & supplies; supported/integrated employment; respite care and vehicle modifications.

“Autism Acceptance Month is a great opportunity to show our support for those affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder, their families and caregivers,” said Elizabeth Hertel, MDHHS director. “MDHHS is committed to providing necessary resources, support and accommodations for those living with ASD. MDHHS recently created a new section focused on expanding services and working through barriers to care for children and youth with ASD. This section will build on the last 10 years of progress expanding access to care and supporting better treatment standards and outcomes for families in our state.”

Discover the mission and resources of Autism Alliance of Michigan by visiting Explore the vocational rehabilitation services provided to people with autism by Michigan Rehabilitation Services, within LEO’s Office of Employment and Training, by visiting You can also learn more about how MDE and MDHHS support individuals with autism by visiting MDE’s Special Education website or