EAST HANOVER, NJ- April’s East Hanover Town Council Meeting was opened with a proclamation by Mayor Joe Pannullo naming the month to be Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month throughout the township.

Autism Spectrum Disorder is one of the most pervasive developmental disabilities in America today. It is one that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral changes in the individual and people with Autism communicate, interact and learn in ways that are different from the norm. There is no medical test to aid in the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, but with advancements in understanding, we have grown to better recognize and support those of our families and communities that have this disability.

As of 2012, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention put rates of identified Autism Spectrum Disorder at one in every 68 children. This is a strong hike from the turn of the century where rates were only one in every 150 children. In New Jersey these numbers are even more staggering with one in every 41 children diagnosed with the disorder. It is almost impossible to find someone today who has not had some direct experience with the disorder.

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“I, Joseph Pannullo, Mayor of the Township of East Hanover hereby proclaim April 2017 as National Autism Awareness, Acceptance and Inclusion Month in East Hanover,” Pannullo proclaimed. “I urge our residents to become better educated and informed on the subject of Autism Spectrum Disorders.”

Residents who ride around the township may have noticed the advent of blue lights that adorn many of the local buildings and businesses. These lights are in honor Autism Speaks, an organization dedicated to promoting solutions throughout the lifespan of individuals with Autism, and are in place to raise awareness of the disability throughout New Jersey and throughout the country. Mayor Pannullo encouraged any businesses in the township to participate in this cause and support the community effort.

The proclamation was accepted by Peter Fifoot. Fifoot is a member of the East Hanover community that is diagnosed with Autism and has been the recipient of the proclamation for the last several years. Not only did this young man stand up in front of the crowd to accept the award, but gave a moving speech of his own to all gathered at the Town Council meeting.

“In this month recognizing this disability, we must come to realize what Autism truly is,” Fifoot said. “It is a roadblock, but on a highway where there is a one, good samaritans and first responders will do their part to fix the roadblock. The same must be done here. First the community and the people must embrace and willingly help the person that has this disability.”

Each member of the Town Council took time during the meeting to explicitly state their pride for this young man and the steps he has taken. Many sitting on the council have watched Fifoot grow over the past several years and their words showed their dedication to Autism awareness and to helping those in the community who are affected by it.

“Remember,” Fifoot said, completing his address, “it takes a village to raise a child.”