Members of New Jersey’s autism community assembled at New Jersey’s State House today to recognize state leaders who have pioneered legislative and public policy measures that have improved funding and access to both private and public autism services in New Jersey. The group, led by Eden Autism Services President and CEO Thomas McCool, Ed.D., also unveiled innovative new educational, assessment and screening tools to help parents, educators and pediatricians diagnose and manage autism more quickly and effectively. Posting their collaborative initiatives on www.innovationforautism.com, the group invited others to join their efforts in helping those touched by autism.
Robert Titus, New Jersey autism public policy expert and an Eden parent, praised lawmakers and state agency leaders for leading the fight against the growing developmental disorder of autism, which affects 1 in 49 children in the Garden State (the national incidence rate is 1 in 88 children).
“New Jersey has one of the highest incidence rates of autism in the country, but it is also recognized as a leader in the fight against this incredibly challenging neurological disorder thanks to collaborative initiatives among the legislative, educational, medical, nonprofit and technology communities based here in the Garden State,” remarked Titus.
He cited the efforts of governors, legislators and state officials – past and present – for their vision and leadership. He also credited Eden Autism Services, a not-for-profit organization founded in 1975, for its 38-year commitment to improve the lives of children and adults with autism.
“Eden’s clinical experience and extensive range of services to meet the lifespan needs of individuals with autism has garnered national recognition and has helped New Jersey emerge as a model for best practices in providing education and training to address autism,” Titus said.
Speakers at the press conference included:
- Thomas McCool, Ed.D., President & CEO, Eden Autism Services, Princeton, NJ (who underscored the importance of collaborations among state leaders, educators and technology partners to further Eden’s mission)
“It is often said that it takes a village to raise a child, and that is especially true when it is applied to children with autism,” stated Dr. McCool. “Thanks to our state’s legislators and agency leaders, we have funding for medical research, health insurance for autism treatment, improved training for teachers and first responders, and more resources to empower those with autism to live meaningful, productive lives.”
“Thanks to higher education and technology partners such as Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) and WebTeam Corporation, we have been able to develop innovative screening, assessment and teaching tools that will revolutionize the way parents, teachers and physicians diagnose, educate and treat autism,” Dr. McCool added.
As an example, Dr. McCool announced that Eden’s Learning Management System (ELMS), allows Eden to offer its highly acclaimed autism assessment and curriculum online via an interactive cloud-based platform. Available on a subscription basis, ELMS allows for accurate data collection, graphing and reporting on individual student’s progress.
“The electronic format frees up valuable time for therapists by virtually eliminating paperwork, decreasing the chance for human error, and allowing ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) therapists to more effectively and efficiently build a complete analytical database and therapy program for each child they work with,” stated Dr. McCool.
- Michael Lewis, Ph.D., University Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry; Director, Institute for the Study of Child Development Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (whose expert guidance led to a collaboration with WebTeam Corporation in the development of the new Autism N Developmental Disorder Screening app to diagnose autism in children as early as 8 months)
“Signs of autism or other common developmental delays can appear in babies as early as six months,” stated Dr. Lewis. “The ANDDS app is designed to periodically evaluate a child’s progress at the ages of 8, 12, 15, 18, 24 and 36 months. By answering a set of specific questions that are assigned to each age group, parents can test their child’s progress and determine if he/she is at risk of developing autism. The app may also be a useful tool for pediatricians or clinicians looking to have a centralized mechanism for screening and research.”
- Atam P. Dhawan, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor and Executive Director, Undergraduate Research and Innovation, New Jersey Institute of Technology (who heads an Interdisciplinary Design Studio (IDS) where students are developing patent pending interactive toys to help autistic children)
“As the number of children with Autism disorder is increasing, it is important to create collaborative synergies from all sectors including academia, industry, government and non-profit organizations to address the critical issue of providing effective learning tools to autistic children,” commented Dr. Dhawan. “These children need innovative educational protocols and technologies to help them learn and receive education at all levels to become responsible and productive citizens towards making a positive impact in our society.”
Through the Interdisciplinary Design Studio, a unique undergraduate research, innovation and entrepreneurship program at NJIT, a student team is developing innovative interactive toys integrated with the WebTeam learning system. The integrated system is designed to provide customized skill-learning protocols for autistic children addressing clinical assessment based specific needs while incorporating the Eden curriculum.
“It is a wonderful synergy where smart minds of our younger generation of students have an opportunity to work with technology and industry leaders to develop innovative solutions to problems of high societal impact such as effective learning for children with autism, and learn entrepreneurial leadership skills at the same time,” stated Dr. Dhawan.
- Nish Parikh, CEO, WebTeam Corporation (a Somerset, NJ-based information technology company that has been pioneering innovations and apps for special needs education since 2007)
Mr. Parikh debuted WebTeam Corporation’s iLearnNEarn2, the latest generation app series for children and adults with autism. Based on Eden’s curriculum, the series includes a comprehensive library of educational activities that can be tailored to individual needs and abilities, themes and rewards. iLearnNEarn2 will be made available in two versions: iLearnNEarn2 – Infant & Toddler and iLearnNEarn2 – Adult Series. The Infant & Toddler version will include 75 skills for preschoolers, while the Adult version will include 200 skills covering all 4 skill domains for adults.
“iLearnNEarn2 is the culmination of six years of research and development and feedback from more than 800,000 downloads of iLearnNEarn1 and related apps,” commented Mr. Parikh.
Mr. Parikh also demonstrated the ANDDS screening app – developed with Dr. Lewis – as well as the iAssessNTeach apps for parents and professional involved in the education of infants and toddlers with autism (Home Series) and school-age children (School Series). The iAssessNTeach apps, which systematically assess skill areas in all domains and can be used for setting learning goals for autistic children, were developed by WebTeam based on Eden’s comprehensive curriculum teaching protocol for skills acquisitions. All of the apps developed by WebTeam Corporation are available globally across all platforms (Kindle/iOS/Google Play/Kindle/Nook) in multiple languages.
“By combining world-class technology with the clinical expertise of Eden, Dr. Lewis, NJIT and others in the autism community, we can help improve countless lives,” observed Mr. Parikh, “and that is what motivates us to do more.”
Eden Autism Services
Founded in 1975, not-for-profit Eden Autism Services was among the first to provide a wide range of science-based services to children and adults with autism through early intervention, 3 to 21 education, employment, adult residential, and consultative programs employing Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). With a national prevalence rate of 1 in 88 births (1 in 49 in New Jersey), autism is the third most common developmental disability. Recognized nationally, Eden is a leader in working with individuals who have the most challenging behavioral and cognitive deficits. Eden's outreach department offers support and training for families and professionals and has made available for purchase the Eden assessment and curriculum, available in print and online (ELMS: Eden’s Learning Management System), which is comprised of nearly 40 years of clinical experience. For more information, visit www.edenautism.org or call (609) 987-0099. Follow Eden on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
For information about speakers, programs, and apps for autism, visit: www.innovationforautism.com.