NUTLEY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — April is Autism Awareness Month, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just announced that 1 in 54 children in the United States is diagnosed with autism.

CBS2’s Cindy Hsu spoke to parents about the challenges in the community, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Thirteen-year-old Alec Fiordilino is on the autism spectrum, and his mom, Lori Fiordilino, now has to teach him from home.

“He’s on edge. He’s having a little bit more meltdowns. I see some of the behaviors we had worked on previously, they’re starting to come out,” Lori said.

For children with autism, a set schedule is key. Alec is normally at school for six hours.


It’s just not classroom time the kids are missing. Many are not getting the services they need.

“They’re missing out on speech. They’re missing out on [occupational therapy]. They’re missing out on PT,” Lori said.

Many are turning to social media for help.

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Kerry Magro is one professional speaker who offered a free webinar. Magro was diagnosed with autism at 4 years old, overcame many obstacles and now travels the world talking about autism and inclusion.

Magro helped parents, teachers and advocates find ways to deal with COVID-19. He said parents need to somehow come up with a new routine for their child and know they’re not alone.

“Remember to breathe. Take it one day at a time,” Magro said. “Look to your village, if you are feeling down one day, for support.”

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There’s a lot of support out there. Many autism groups are addressing COVID-19 on their websites.

Lori Fiordilino says she’s also hoping everyone will learn more about autism.

“If you get to know them, they’re the most lovable. I adore each and every one that I get to meet, and I’m lucky I get to meet a lot of them,” she said.

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She says instead of autism awareness, think about autism acceptance.