Murphy connects with autism families in Newington

By:  Erica Drzewiecki
New Britain Herald

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy left Autism Families CONNECTicut Sunday with new insight into the lives of people affected by the disorder.

The organization hosted the senator at its North Mountain Road facility for a roundtable discussion about improving the way the state and nation handle issues surrounding autism.

Autism Families CONNECT-icut serves hundreds of families from across the region with programming for children and young adults. Founder and Board President Leah Moon listened as people shared their stories.

“We’re so pleased he took the time to be here to listen to all the challenges our families deal with on a daily basis,” she said. “From healthcare to education to jobs, it really runs a huge continuum.”

Murphy told the group that recent tax cuts could mean fewer resources for agencies and families affected by autism.

“We spent $1.5 trillion giving tax cuts to big corporations. What if we spent a fraction of that on the kids and adults we’re talking about? It would make a world of difference,” he pointed out. “It’s a question of values. There’s nothing stopping this country from making a decision to take care of people on the spectrum.”

Leslie Simoes, executive director of Autism Services & Resources Connecticut, said the state should have a department to work with the growing community of autism families.

“It all boils down to a gaping hole we have in our state,” she added, addressing the fact that services are only available to mentally disabled individuals with an intelligence quotient of 69 or below.

Those with autism spectrum disorder often have IQ scores above 70, higher than their intellectually disabled peers. While there is a waiting list for state assistance as it is, many people who need it aren’t even eligible.

“Adults who are autistic are not taken care of,” Simoes said.

State Rep. Gary Byron, R-Newington, discussed a bill he proposed to examine the transportation needs of the mentally disabled, along with veterans and seniors.

Middletown resident Steve Cappiello advocated for schools allowing students with special needs to carry GPS tracking devices to monitor their location and allow parents listen in on their interactions with others.

“We shouldn’t have to fight for something as simple as this to keep our children alive,” he said.