2021 Autism Summit

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 2021 Autism Summit
Focused on Policy Initiatives Important to Our Community

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The Autism Society of Greater Akron (ASGA) hosted its fifth Autism Summit today, inviting national and local speakers to provide facts and information about the COVID vaccine specific to people with disabilities, our state and community.

“ASGA conducted a survey of parents, direct support professionals and self-advocates across the State of Ohio about their beliefs, support, or concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Laurie Cramer, Executive Director, ASGA. “While the survey was sent via the Autism Society of Ohio’s network and results cannot be over-generalized, we identified areas of highest concern to participants and asked speakers to help us address the issues raised.”

The Autism Summit was held via Zoom and was a one hour discussion focused solely on the COVID vaccine as it relates to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Summit was sponsored by Cleveland Clinic Akron General and Cleveland Clinic Children’s, and was in collaboration with the Autism Society of Ohio, to provide accurate information and education about the vaccine.

Carol Haines, Chairman of the ASGA Board of Directors, said “We want to thank our speakers, who brought much needed clarity and information, helping individuals and families make a decision about the vaccine based on facts and information relevant to them. I also want to thank Dr. Jessica Foster, Director of Behavioral and Developmental Pediatrics at Akron Children’s Hospital and one of my fellow board members who Chairs the Advocacy Committee, for helping us to navigate this difficult subject and moderating this panel.”


Lisa Wiggins, Ph.D., Developmental Psychologist
National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Member, CDC COVID Task Force for people with developmental disabilities

Scott Pangonis, MD, MS, FAAP
Associate Director, Infection Control; Pediatric Infectious Disease Physician
Akron Children’s Hospital

Donald Dumford, M.D., Infectious Disease Specialist
Cleveland Clinic Akron General

John Trunk, Superintendent
Summit County Board of Developmental Disabilities

Thomas Quade, Health Commissioner
Geauga County Public Health


Haines continued, “The survey highlighted three major areas of concern for respondents, leading ASGA to urge policy makers to consider the following:”

1. Address healthcare disparities and better equip medical personnel to care for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities when they are ill.

People with intellectual and developmental disabilities are three times more likely to die from COVID-19. Our state and national leaders must continue to address health care disparities for this vulnerable population. Survey respondents were not confident that if a person with an intellectual/developmental disability became ill, they would receive adequate healthcare. In addition, racial inequities were identified as magnifying the problem.

2. Prioritize caregivers who live in private homes and individuals with severe I/DD.

ASGA believes the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the State of Ohio should recognize the need to prioritize vaccinations for caregivers of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities outside of congregate settings, i.e., parents/guardians.

We also urge prioritizing individuals with severe intellectual and developmental disabilities – without underlying medical conditions – who would have difficulty managing their illness, and hospital staff would have difficulty supporting. Highly involved individuals would also require 24/7 support from their personal caregiver, putting their caregiver at risk and logistically compounding matters.

3. Open schools to provide an in-person learning option for individuals who need it.

Students with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities can have a difficult time navigating online learning. Many survey respondents expressed the need for children to have access to the vaccine so their children can safely return to school. We urge schools to re-open, with or without availability of the vaccine, for those who need in-person learning.

ASGA also recognized the Autism Society of America’s national leadership on the COVID vaccine and statement urging people with autism and other intellectual/developmental disabilities “to be vaccinated as distribution becomes possible” with the COVID-19 vaccine.


From the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities:

From the Center for Disease Contol

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Event Details

Event Start Date 12-31-2021 12:00 pm