New York state Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara knows the challenges of having a child on the autism spectrum.
"I've lived this," he said. "My son was diagnosed at 3, I've been through a lot of the challenges, I share a lot of the things I've been through with my son, the challenges we've had to face and overcome, I've shared that with a large part of my community with disabilities in general."
Federal health officials said autism is being diagnosed in more children across the country — and Santabarbara hopes New York will make increases more available to respond. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a new report found autism is now being diagnosed in one in 44 children.
"When the number was one in 68 in 2012 and then one in 54 a few years later, now to see this one in 44 — that's a significant increase," he said.
Santabarbara has sponsored legislation that would create an autism detection, education and mapping program within the state's advisory council on autism spectrum disorders. The measure is yet to formally hit Hochul's desk, but he hopes it will soon, and that she signs it.
The eventual goal is to increase resources and programs for families with children who have been diagnosed with autism, while also lending some teeth to the task force created to recommend policy changes and ideas.
"We need to establish where these cases are happening, where these resources are needed and where further education is needed for our community — this bill will bring us there," Santabarbara said.
Santabarbara does not believe former Gov. Andrew Cuomo did enough on the issue of aiding families in the autism community, and he hopes Gov. Kathy Hochul will be different. He was heartened when Hochul last week tweeted her support for a day of recognizing people with disabilities.
"It was a heartfelt message," Santabarbara said. "It was very positive. It was something that I was very happy to see."