1.The Legislature finds and declares that:
a.Autism is a developmental disorder of brain function which is typically manifested in impaired social interaction, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication and imagination, and unusual or severely limited activities and interests. These symptoms generally appear during the first three years of childhood and continue throughout life;
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, one of every 94 children in this State has autism, which is the highest rate among the states examined by the CDC in the most comprehensive study of the prevalence of autism to date.
b.In addition to those diagnosed with autism every year, there are an estimated 4.5 million individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities living in the United States, including approximately 200,000 individuals in New Jersey.
Developmental disabilities are a diverse group of severe chronic conditions that are due to mental or physical impairments which are manifested in problems with major life activities such as language, mobility, learning, self-help, and independent living. Developmental disabilities begin anytime during development up to 22 years of age and usually last throughout a person's lifetime.
Intellectual disability is characterized both by a significantly below-average score on a test of mental ability or intelligence and by limitations in the ability to function in areas of daily life, such as communication, self-care, and getting along in social situations and school activities. Intellectual disability is sometimes referred to as a cognitive disability or mental retardation. Intellectual disabilities include, but are not limited to, Down syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome, fragile X syndrome, Cri-du-chat syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, as well as infections such as congenital cytomegalovirus or birth defects that affect the brain such as hydrocephalus or cortical atrophy. Other causes of intellectual disability include serious head injury, stroke or certain infections such as meningitis; and
c.Firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and police officers may unexpectedly encounter or be asked to locate a person diagnosed with autism or an intellectual or other developmental disability. Given the high number of individuals affected by these disabilities, it is altogether fitting and proper to ensure that emergency responders are uniformly trained in recognizing the behavioral symptoms and characteristics of a child or adult with one or more of these disabilities, and are educated in the high risks associated with these disabilities as well as basic response techniques.
L.2008, c.80, s.1.