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Chandler, AZ: $10K to be Certified Autism Center; "600% increase in autism dx"

Jan 18, 2024, Tempe, AZ, SanTan Sun Times: Chandler parks staffers to get autism training

John Sefton, the community services director for the City of Chandler, says there’s been a 600% increase in autism diagnoses in the past several years.

“One in six people have a sensory need,” Sefton told City Council at its Jan. 8 study session.

He appeared before Council to explain why the city is spending about $10,000 to qualify its Parks and Recreation division with a Certified Autism Center designation.

To qualify, Sefton said at least 80% of the parks and recreation staffers who deal with the public must be trained.

“The program will enhance awareness and understanding of autism-related challenges and includes safety and communication protocols and best practices,” Sefton said….

It says one in 44 [sic] children born today are diagnosed with autism. And, many times, children are not diagnosed because no two cases are the same. It’s a spectrum condition, where some are obvious cases, but many are not.

“I think back to some of my early times running camps in the ’90s, when some of the diagnosis in my experience were coming, our parents had no idea what was going on with their children,” Sefton said. 

“The pain and the anguish and the frustration that they went through, I feel it. And had I had this kind of training then … we’re getting there.”

Council had awarded $10,000 to the Community Services Department to pursue this designation as one of its amendments to the budget. 

City staff present a wish list to council and if two or more members agree it is a priority, then the whole council votes on including it out of its pot of $432,000.

Sefton said the training his staff will receive will be specific to the jobs they do. For example, life guards will receive aquatics training. …


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