April is World Autism Month

April 02, 2020

Maryland Legislative Effort Could Bring Positive Change for Autism Services

In remembrance of April’s World Autism Month, we are highlighting a legislative effort which could bring positive change in addressing the autism crisis. In 2 years, the prevalence of autism has grown 10% and now affects 1 in 54 children.

A bill in Maryland has passed the state’s General Assembly which would establish a statewide strategy, coordinator and advisory stakeholder group for autism. The bill now awaits the governor’s signature.

The bill requires the designation of a state level Coordinator of Autism Strategy within the Department of Disabilities, as well as a Stakeholder Advisory Group appointed by the Governor. The Coordinator and Advisory Group would be charged with developing and providing oversight of a statewide strategic master plan to address the needs of individuals and families facing the challenges of autism in Maryland. The plan would include performance measures and follow up on outcomes.

According to the Facebook page of the grassroots team who led the effort to pass the bill, “This groundbreaking bill will help the 1 in 50 Maryland families facing autism by making Maryland’s response to the significant increase in autism prevalence since the year 2000 more effective, accountable, and responsive to their needs.”

Delegate Michele Guyton of Baltimore, Maryland introduced the bill in February and provided the leadership which garnered the bipartisan support of her colleagues in both the House and Senate. Delegate Guyton was the honored guest at SafeMinds Fashion Rocks Autism in 2019.

In drafting the legislation, Guyton stated “it is clear that too many of the needs of families and individuals on the Autism Spectrum are currently going unmet and that Maryland is unprepared to face the challenges posed to our state by a growing and aging population of citizen[s] with Autism who do not always have the supports that they need to live independent, productive and fulfilling lives. ”

Lisa Wiederlight, HB 847 grassroots leader and former SafeMinds executive director, says this legislation could serve as a model bill for other states to adopt. To her knowledge, no other state has created such a comprehensive vehicle for accountability, effectiveness, and stakeholder participation.

Similar legislation has been proposed by SafeMinds at the Federal level, called the Autism ERA Act.


Maryland General Assembly. Legislation. HB0847.

Michele Guyton. Statewide Coordinator of Autism Strategy – HB847. The BayNet. Anne Arundel County. 02/24/2020.

Support Maryland HB 847 – For Marylanders with Autism/Those Who Love Them. Facebook.

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