McDonald Appointed Chairman of Conference Autism Task Force

Roy J. McDonald

January 10, 2009

Senate Task Force on Autism,” said Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos. “Senator McDonald has witnessed first-hand the effects these disorders have on sufferers and their families. That experience will enable Senator McDonald to bring the unique perspective and empathy necessary to provide New Yorkers with a tangible legislative solution to a very real and unfortunately growing problem.”

“I want to take this opportunity to thank Senator Skelos for appointing me as Chairman of this very important task force” said Senator McDonald. “I plan to travel the state working to find solutions and help those families and individuals suffering from autism spectrum disorders.”

In recent times the number of reported cases of those suffering from autism spectrum disorders has skyrocketed to alarming rate of nearly 1 out of every 150 newborn babies being diagnosed with the disorders. Senator McDonald views this issue on two levels, the large-scale dealing with solutions on how to cure and what causes autism spectrum disorders, and the personal level addressing how to provide care and services to those suffering and their families.

“This task force will be an outlet for families, advocates and experts to voice their concerns and opinions on ways to provide better care and assistance to those suffering from these disorders” McDonald continued, “I hope to be able to develop legislation and increase services to families, single mothers, and individuals suffering from what we learn at the task force hearings.”

This issue is especially important to the Senator as he has two grandsons, Jacob and David, who are both suffering at different levels on the autism spectrum. Each boy has demonstrated in different instances the important progress that can be made with early intervention along with how special attention is sometimes needed in certain situations for those suffering from autism and similar disabilities.

“I have learned first-hand from my grandsons, that special people need special love and attention” said McDonald.

In his latter stages serving as an Assemblyman, McDonald had the opportunity to work in a bi-partisan manner towards finding solutions on this issue. In particular, he was honored to work with Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg of Nassau County, who knows firsthand the issues facing those living with disabilities, as the Assemblyman and his wife Ellen are the parents of a son with special needs.

“It has been a pleasure working together with Senator McDonald advocating for those with special needs and I look forward to continuing that working relationship as he begins his job as Chairman of the Senate Task Force on Autism,” said Assemblyman Weisenberg.

McDonald has also had the opportunity to work with Assemblyman Peter Rivera, Chairman of the Assembly Mental Health Committee, and Mark Schroeder who is in charge of an Assembly subcommittee on Autism Retention.  In addition, Senator Thomas Morahan, the Ranking Member on the Senate Committee on Mental Health, has a unique and valuable knowledge of this issue from his years on the Mental Health Committee and McDonald plans to utilize his experience to yield real results.

Lastly, Senator McDonald is enthusiastic to make use of the knowledge and abilities of Commissioner Diana Ritter, of the New York State office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities,  for the Senate Autism Task Force.

“All these individuals are excellent examples of public servants working diligently towards helping those suffering and in need” Senator McDonald continued, “we will especially be focused towards providing services to urban areas, minority communities, and rural areas where health care services are often more difficult to obtain.”