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County supervisors to request tobacco tax dollars for autism programs

4/27/2011, 7:54 a.m.

LOS ANGELES, Calif.--Citing a nearly hundred-fold increase in autism disorders since 1993, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Wednesday to pursue funding for programs to help children with autism in low-income families.

The number of children in the U.S. with disorders along the autism spectrum has gone from 1 in 10,000 in 1993 to 1 in 110 in 2010, said Supervisor Don Knabe, referencing studies by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Supervisors Don Knabe and Mark Ridley-Thomas recommended that the board seek funding on an annual basis from First 5 Los Angeles.

First 5 Los Angeles was established by Proposition 10, passed in 1998, and is charged with distributing funds raised through tobacco taxes to help children age five and younger through education, healthcare, child care and other programs.

"Autism is a lifelong neurological disorder that has become more prevalent in the past years,'' Knabe said. "While the First 5 Los Angeles Commission has funded efforts in the past to provide support for familiesimpacted by autism, we believe that more can be done to help these young
children and their families.

"Detecting autism at a young age can have a profound impact on cognitive and social development, giving children and their families more options and hope.''

Diagnosis and treatment of autism has been shown to be most effective when addressed during toddler and preschool years and the transition to kindergarten.

However, Knabe said that many families, particularly those in low-income communities, encounter barriers in accessing programs, such as speech and physical therapy and social skills training, to help their children.