Governor Roy Cooper has proclaimed April as World Autism Month in North Carolina to raise awareness and recognize individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), their families and organizations working to support them.
“People with autism offer so much to our communities, our workforce and our state,” said Governor Cooper. “They and their families deserve our support and understanding as they overcome the challenges of ASD, and I am grateful for the North Carolina organizations working hard to raise awareness and provide resources.”
Autism spectrum disorder is a neurological and developmental disorder that begins early in childhood and consists of a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. A 2020 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the percentage of 8-year-olds that have been identified as having autism in North Carolina—1 in 39, or 2.5 percent—exceeds that national average of 1.85 percent. Compared to other areas in the U.S. that were monitored for ASD prevalence, N.C. had the highest proportion of children with ASD who had received a comprehensive evaluation performed by age 3.
March 2022 marked the third anniversary of Governor Cooper’s Executive Order 92: Employment First for North Carolinians with Disabilities. The executive order charged state agencies with facilitating welcoming environments across state government where individuals with disabilities could successfully participate in competitive, integrated employment. State employees have credited the designation of North Carolina as an Employment First state with creating a more supportive environment for state employees with disabilities.
In 2018, Governor Cooper and the North Carolina Business Committee for Education (NCBCE) launched LiNC-IT, the first statewide neurodiversity internship program. LiNC-IT supports early career individuals with ASD and helps employers find the talent they need and develop neurodiversity programs to support that talent. Since the program's launch, over 135 individuals have been referred to the program and 70 have completed or are currently in a paid internship. Over 90 percent of participants who completed their internship are now in full time employment.
The North Carolina Department of Public Safety has also hosted free trainings for law enforcement leaders and first responders to learn best practices on interacting with North Carolinians with ASD. The goal of Helping Enhance Autism Response Training (HEART) is to further safe contacts among law enforcement, first responders and individuals with autism.
To learn more about Autism Spectrum Disorder, visit the UNC TEACCH Autism Center, Autism Society of North Carolina and the Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development.
For more information on launching a neurodiversity program or to apply for a LiNC-IT internship, visit LiNC-IT.
Read the proclamation.