Vol 5 • Issue 2 • April 2014

April 16, 2014

Message from the Director

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that one out of every 68 births is affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder.   In the past two decades alone, the incidence of autism has increased by 600 percent.  Approximately 67 million people worldwide are affected by autism.

As April is Autism Awareness Month, it is the opportune time to educate people about this complex neurological disorder that is more prevalent among children than cancer, diabetes and AIDS combined.

There is no cure for autism: it is a lifelong condition that impacts how an individual interacts with the world around them. However, research indicates that two years of early behavioral intervention at preschool age can result in significant improvements in IQ and language ability for many children with autism spectrum disorders. It is important, therefore, for parents to be on the lookout for “red flags” that can act as early indicators of autism.  Such warning signs could include an infant not smiling or expressing other warm, joyful expressions by six months, a child who, at 10 months, is still unresponsive when their name is called, no babbling by twelve months and any loss of speech, babbling or social skills at any age.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a widely recognized effective treatment intervention for autism endorsed by many state and federal agencies including the CDC. CDC and Autism.  ABA therapy is used to increase language and communication skills, improve attention and foster skills such as listening, imitating, and understanding another person’s perspective.

Although we have made significant strides in education and advocacy during the past fifty years, our community has much work to do to offer better services and quite frankly, access to services.  Parents, advocates, treatment professionals, educators and others need to embrace a single and unified goal—every individual on the autism spectrum, irrespective of wealth, geography, ethnicity, status receives the best services available.  Are we close to this goal?  We are not when you consider that families move from one state to another for easier access to services.

According to an online survey distributed by Autism Speaks, the ten best places to live if you have autism included the greater New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia and Boston metropolitan areas, Northern New Jersey, Minneapolis, Seattle and Milwaukee.  Virginia ranked among the states that fared the worst (percentage of negative responses) along with Texas, Tennessee, Ohio, Florida, Michigan and California.  Incidentally, Virginia did become the 26th state to enact autism insurance reform on May 6, 2011.

So what do we need to do and where do we need to focus?  We need to encourage dialogues with the autism community, meet with policy makers, leaders and others who can inspire action and invite more parents to advocate for action for autism.  We need to talk more about the issues surrounding autism with individuals we come into contact with on a daily basis.  The more we talk and spread the word about the issues at hand, the greater impact we have on developing long-lasting solutions that help those with autism live meaningful and productive lives.


Sixteen clients served at the Berryville campus participated in a Leo induction ceremony scheduled on April 4, 2014. The service accomplishments of Grafton’s Leos were formally recognized by distinguished guests: Jim Christensen, First Vice District Governor, Greg Hart, President of Clarke County Lions Club, and Sharon Hart, Secretary, Clarke County Lions Club.

We are proud to announce that Gena Zydelis, Service Coordinator, Infant and Toddler Connection of the Shenandoah Valley was the recipient of the 2014 Tigger Award, an award presented to individuals who have worked tirelessly to serve children and families in our community. Gena was presented the award at the 6th annual Community Commitment for Change Conference held in Winchester, Virginia on April 8, 2014.


For over 50 years, Grafton has made a difference in the lives of people challenged by complex disabilities. Beginning at the kitchen table of our founder, Ruth Birch, and developing into a multi-state provider of many different services. To make a donation, please click here. http://www.grafton.org/donation/

Grafton Matters Blog

Have you had a chance to visit Grafton Matters, our new blog?  Our most recent posts include:

  • How does the dynamic relationship between therapist and client serve a catalyst for change and recovery?  Evidence-Based Practice
  • In the past two decades alone, the incidence of autism has increased by 600.  So how do we cope with the growing challenge? Action for Autism
  • The transition of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities from training centers into community based settings has sparked a statewide discussion among advocacy groups. What does this mean for staffing models and housing options for individuals needing residential support? Housing Options