Autism New Jersey is ramping up their efforts to bring attention to the disorder that affects so many children, especially in New Jersey, as part of April's National Autism Awareness Month.

Tell us what groups and organizations make the Garden State great by using the form at the bottom of this story.

The April efforts will work hand-in-hand with the the charity's 2012 campaign for their Autism Awareness Ambassadors program.

"The theme of this year's program is to create change," said Director of Development Ellen Schisler, "And essentially, we are looking for ambassadors to educate, inspire and lead the way."

The urgency to raise awareness has grown even more, as new figures show that 1 in every 49 kid in New Jersey is affected by autism.

"What we try to do at Autism New Jersey is ensure that people get accurate, evidence-based information," Schisler explained.

Autism New Jersey has been working at this mission since 1965, acting as the state's largest autism advocacy organization. They have had their Ambassador program in place for over a decade, with more than 1800 ambassadors nationwide across all 50 states, and over 600 volunteers in New Jersey.

"By programs like our ambassador program and the work that Autism New Jersey is doing, we're really helping people with autism become members of their communities and neighborhoods," Schisler said.

They are making raising awareness a priority in schools, business, communities, and places of worship during this campaign. This year, as well, social media will have a big hand in the ultimate goal, which is to spread the word about this disorder that affects more and more people, especially children in the Garden State.

"You look at some of the ambassadors who are personally affected and I think they see a real significant change in the way their communities embrace autism," Schisler said.

Learn more about the 2012 campaign, and how you can volunteer by visiting the Autism New Jersey website and Facebook page.


The Eagle Academy Foundation - Newark

Young men struggling in Newark now have a place to turn. The Eagle Academy Foundation (EAF) in conjunction with Newark Public Schools and local community organizations, is reaching out to young men struggling with poverty, unemployment, and a lack of active fathers and role models. Founded in 2005, EAF mentors young men in urban communities to become future leaders committed to excellence in character, education achievement and community service.

"We are confident that the Eagle model will be a perfect fit in serving the educational needs of the community in Newark," said David Banks, President and CEO of The Eagle Academy Foundation. Click here to learn more.

Raising Autism - Brick

In honor of Autism Awareness Month, many individuals and groups around New Jersey are doing their part to raise awareness. Brick resident Kimberlee McCafferty is producing a play called Raising Autism, which chronicles three mothers and their experiences parenting children with autism. McCafferty is also the mother of two children with autism. The play is scheduled for 8pm on April 21 at Brick Township High School and at 8pm on April 28 at Jersey Shore Arts Center. All proceeds will go to POAC Austim Services to support free training and services. Click here to learn more about POAC Autism Services.