Baker-Polito Administration Announces First Executive Director of the Commonwealth's Autism Commission
BOSTON – Carolyn J. Kain was sworn in as the state’s first Executive Director of the Autism Commission and will begin her official duties on Monday, April 4. The Commission formally commenced its work last September and is comprised of autism experts, providers, advocates and state leaders who are working to improve and expand treatment, resources and insurance coverage for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Professionally trained as a lawyer, Kain has extensive experience advocating for children and youth with special needs and on behalf of families throughout the Commonwealth. Prior to being appointed as Executive Director of the Autism Commission, Kain served as the Chief Operating Officer of the House of Possibilities, a non-profit in Easton, Mass. that provides support services to adults with developmental disabilities and respite services to families of children with disabilities. Previously, Kain was a special education attorney for 12 years representing families and non-profits such as Advocates, Massachusetts Advocates for Children and the Federation for Children with Special Needs.
“Massachusetts is committed to being a leader in providing supportive educational, residential and employment services for youth and adults with developmental disabilities,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “The Commission’s work, led by Carolyn, will continue to prioritize assistance for individuals as they age and require additional supports.”
“Carolyn brings knowledge and compassion about the needs of children and youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder and developmental disabilities and is a strong advocate for families of people with disabilities,” said the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Marylou Sudders. “I have every confidence that working in collaboration with the Commission, she will build upon the priorities identified in the 2013 Report of the Governor’s Special Commission relative to Autism.”
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 68 children were identified with ASD in 2010, or about 30 percent higher than the estimate from 2008 (1 in 88). Individuals with ASD can have a range of symptoms from mild disabilities such as speech and language impairments to serious developmental disabilities, such as intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, and autism, according to the CDC.
Established as part of the landmark Autism Omnibus Legislation of 2014, the Commission is charged with developing recommendations on policies impacting individuals with ASD including Asperger’s syndrome, high-functioning autism, Smith-Magenis syndrome and pervasive development disorder.
The Commission, comprised of 35 members and chaired by Secretary Sudders, is reviewing all the supports necessary to help people with ASD attain education, supported employment, live independently, participate in the community and access social, emotional and behavioral health services. In addition, the Commission will be considering new opportunities and reporting on the progress of implementing the 13 recommendations from the 2013 Massachusetts Autism Commission Report.
The Autism Omnibus Bill was created to address the needs of the growing number of people with ASD. The bill requires MassHealth to cover medically necessary treatments for people with ASD who are under 21, extend DDS services eligibility to many persons with ASD, create an autism endorsement for special education teachers, create tax-free savings accounts and requires Department of Developmental Services and the Department of Mental Health to implement a plan to improve services to individuals with both developmental disabilities and mental illness.