New Jersey does its part to raise awareness on World Autism Day

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April 2 marks World Autism Day – a day to focus on and raise awareness about the Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Monmouth County officials held a forum for families to let them know about services that are available to help protect their loved ones who have special needs. The Special Needs Registry allows Monmouth County residents to sign up so that first responders and police officers are aware of people who have special needs.

Project Lifesaver will help track people who have autism or Alzheimer’s disease in case they go missing. People who are signed up are given a tracking bracelet with a GPS locator so that responders can find them.

RELATED: Project Lifesaver helps locate missing people in New Jersey 

Over in Fairfield, school students raised nearly $2,000 for the organization United By Autism.

Students in kindergarten through third grade held a coin collection to raise the money. Superintendent Susan Ciccotelli agreed to kiss a pig if the students met their goal – which they did.

"It helps the children understand that not everybody is the same. It's OK to be different. We have to embrace each other for who we are and accept everyone within our community,” said teacher Nicole Messina. “Here at our school, we have many children who are different and also the same at the same time."

And Hackensack is doing its part for Autism Awareness Day with the state’s first hydroponic vertical farm.

“Greens Do Good,” is funded by the New Jersey Health Department. Plants are grown in stacked trays, using energy-efficient watering and lighting systems. Local businesses and restaurants then buy the plants, with proceeds going to REED, a nonprofit that provides support and services to adults with autism.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 59 children are diagnosed with the disorder. This accounts for 1 in 37 for boys and 1 in 151 for girls.

There is no medical detection for autism. Health officials say that parents should pay attention to their young children’s developmental milestones. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all children get screened during their 18- and 25-month checkups.

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