Grassroots advocacy in tough budget environment helps make positive changes for families affected by autism

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February 10, 2017

Pictured:  Meeting on Smart Cookie Day in 2016 were (L-R) autism advocates Jackson DeNight and Samuel DeNight, Delaware St. Rep. Sean Matthews (D-Dist. 10), and autism advocate Kyle Bryan.

February 10, 2017—NEWARK DE
  Every April, Autism Delaware sets aside a special day on which to focus on putting autism advocates together with their state legislators. Called Smart Cookie Day, this year’s meet and greet will take place in the Delaware Legislature on Thursday, April 6. Autism Delaware policy and community outreach director Alex Eldreth is calling on autism advocates to join forces in preparation for their day in Dover. The advocates’ goal is to share their personal stories of life with a loved one on the autism spectrum as well as to advocate for legislation that benefits individuals on the spectrum and their families. The advocates will also hand-deliver freshly baked, donated chocolate chip cookies.

“We need as many families and individual advocates as possible for Smart Cookie Day,” says Eldreth. “Because of the state’s challenging financial climate, grassroots advocacy efforts are especially important. Now more than ever, we need people to tell their stories and educate our legislators about everyday life with autism spectrum disorder.”

Over the years, Autism Delaware advocates have supported many Delaware State Legislature bills that were passed and signed into law. For example, Delaware Governor Jack Markell signed Senate Bill 22, which prohibits insurance companies from denying treatment or dropping a child from an insurance policy because the child is on the autism spectrum. Thanks to the enactment of SB22, all insurance plans regulated by Delaware law must cover screening and diagnosis, behavioral health treatment, psychological and psychiatric care, prescription medications, and speech, occupational, and physical therapies. Another example is SB93, which established the Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism. This network was established to increase the amount of training and technical assistance available to professionals serving people with autism spectrum disorder throughout our state.
Participants in Autism Delaware Smart Cookie Day also have the opportunity to sit in Legislative Hall when tributes to World Autism Awareness Day are read and the governor signs a proclamation naming April as Autism Awareness Month in Delaware.

For more information, visit Or call Autism Delaware policy and community outreach director Alex Eldreth at (302) 224-6020, ext. 204, or email him at

About autism spectrum disorder and Autism Delaware
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” (or ASD, for short). 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 2015–16 school year, 1,660 students had this classification. While this number reflects an increase of more than 950 percent, it does not include 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, like the Walk for Autism, 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
Copyright 2016 New Castle County Chamber of Commerce