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August 08, 2017

Newark DE, August 8, 2017—Autism Delaware announced today the expansion of its statewide family support program. Families who now call for help and resources are connected to a support team that includes two new family navigators as well as long-time resource coordinator (for northern Delaware) Heidi Mizell and family service coordinator (for southern Delaware) Dafne Carnright. Both of the new family navigators are bilingual, so their goal is to provide more outreach to the Spanish-speaking community in addition to greater access to support for families affected by autism. Spanish-speaking families in northern Delaware can call Ivanka Carbajal at (302) 224-6020; in southern Delaware, contact Heidi Morales at (302) 644-3410.

Managed by Autism Delaware family support program manager Annalisa Ekbladh, the family support team is also offering expanded parent education. For the long-running speaker series, the team is scheduling more experts to talk about the subjects that are important to the autism community. Plus, the family support team has created a workshop in partnership with the Delaware Autism Program that addresses the many questions and issues faced by the families of children who are newly diagnosed. Called “Autism 101,” this ongoing workshop can be attended in either of the Autism Delaware offices or on Facebook Live. Autism Delaware’s family support program continues to offer parent packets filled with up-to-date information and resources, support groups, parent coffee hours, respite opportunities (such as summer day camp and Lego club), and social recreation (such as junior golf, swim club, the annual beach picnic, holiday parties, train rides, Blue Rocks games, and sensory friendly bowling, movies, and roller skating).

“Family support was able to expand this year thanks to two important collaborative projects led by the University of Delaware’s Center for Disabilities Studies,” notes Autism Delaware executive director Teresa Avery, “a federal grant program called Health Resources and Services Administration [HRSA] and the newly created Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism. Collaborating on both of these projects were the University of Delaware’s Center for Disabilities Studies, Autism Delaware, Nemours/A.I. DuPont Hospital for Children, Family Voices, the Department of Education, and various other nonprofits and state agencies. All worked together to create and improve the support system for individuals and families with autism in our state.”

For more information about Autism Delaware’s family support program, visit

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that includes impairment in social interaction and social communication. Individuals with ASD also exhibit repetitive patterns of behavior or interest that limit everyday functioning. An intellectual or language impairment is also possible. All these symptoms will first appear in early childhood.

According to the fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), any individual with a well-established DSM-4 diagnosis should be given the diagnosis of “autism spectrum disorder.” In the DSM-4, the diagnoses included classic autism, Asperger’s syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder–not otherwise specified (PDD–NOS). ASD is categorized by severity on a scale of one to three.

In the Delaware public school system, 152 students received an educational classification of autism in 1991, but for the 2016–17 school year, 1,899 students had this classification. This number omits the adults or children who are not currently being served by the school’s special-education system.

Autism Delaware is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit made up of individuals with ASD, their family members, the professionals who serve them, and friends of people with ASD. The agency’s mission is to help people and families affected by ASD. With offices in Newark, Dover, and Lewes, Autism Delaware serves the entire state.

Autism Delaware’s programs and services are supported by state contracts and generous donations from individuals and corporations across Delaware. Fundraising events, such as the Blue Jean Ball and the Fall Auction Gala, help provide the income needed to make critical programs a reality. For more information on how to help, visit

Carla Koss, Communications Coordinator, (302) 224-6020
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