New Chapter for Minnesota's Autism Task Force

Created: 08/04/2014 7:15 PM
By: Hannah Tran

(ABC 6 News) -- Minnesota’s Autism Spectrum Disorder Task Force is working on re-organizing their efforts after the group unraveled from within, when three of its chairs resigned consecutively in the past year. 

"The Task Force is not at sunset, it's just de-funked right now," said DFL Representative Kim Norton of Rochester. 

It’s been a contentious year and the internal disputes caused former chair Brad Trahan, Abbie Wells-Herzog, and Dawn Steigauf to resign from Minnesota's Autism Task Force. Reports say Task Force member and founder of Somali American Autism Foundation, Idil Abdull, clashed with Trahan. She also blogged about Steigauf and reportedly said she was biased against minorities.

The Minnesota House voted to disband the group because of the dysfunction, but they’ve still managed to complete their purpose of recommending a plan and coming up with a strategy to propose to state agencies to better the lives of autistic children and young adults.   

"Now it's at an implementation stage, we had to take some areas that we felt are areas of dire need," said Trahan. 

Now, there's talk of creating an autism commission next year after the task force's time is up in 2015. 

"Then the legislature has to decide whether they want a full time commission or not, which usually has some funding behind it, there's certainly interest," said Representative Norton. 

So, what's the difference between a task force and a commission?

"It's a certain level of hierarchy within the framework of state government, a commission has a little more advisory capacity than a task force," said Sen. David Senjem, a Rochester Republican. 

There's also the question of who will make up that commission. Task Force members may have left, but their vision remains. 

"In terms of membership, I don't see that changing a lot, because it is finally constituted right now," said Senjem. 

Right now, it's about moving forward.

"There's certainly a need to deal with the issues of autism, but whether there is a need for a commission, if that's the best way to move the agenda forward, there will be talk between now and next session I'm sure," said Representative Norton. 

Although committee members from the task force are no longer meeting, their plan will be monitored by state agencies before implementation. 

Photo: MGN