Autism is something most of us had never heard of 10 or 15 years ago.
But now, one in every 150 children is affected.
So where do children and their parents go for help?
In our first part of a three part series called Autism: Meeting the Challenge, we’ll try to answer that question.
Plus, we’ll take a look at a woman and her child, who knows all too well what it feels like to get that heart-breaking diagnosis.
Lisa Bryant describes her feelings the day she got the diagnosis of autism for her son, Jake. “Overwhelming, frightening, heartbreaking,” she said. “He pulled back, his speech stopped, no eye contact he just withdrew to himself,” she added, describing her son’s change in behavior.
Now, Lisa brings Jake to the Southeast Alabama Medical Center for regular sessions with a speech therapist and an occupational therapist.
Getting an autistic child to communicate is one of the biggest challenges.
Speech Therapist Fran Heisner says, “We're trying to get Jake to be as verbal as possible so he can communicate his wants and needs.”
“Getting and keeping his attention is a big challenge,” says Occupational Therapist Andrea Herring.
Heisner adds, “Trying to be as vocal and verbal as possible,” is what they attempt to do to help Jake.”
Both Fran and Andrea spend one-on-one time with Jake, trying to get him to perform basic skills.
“In the beginning he wouldn't even hold a crayon, now he can write his name,” Andrea says.
“Some children might not do a sentence, but they can at least put two or three words together,” Fran said.
Like many autistic children, Jake has difficulty sleeping and his lack of social skills creates another big challenge.
His mother explains, “Going out in public is difficult. It can make things like going to Wal-Mart a nightmare, or going to a restaurant. Just things in everyday life are difficult.
Lisa says the one-on-one therapy for Jake has made a huge difference. She encourages any parent of an autistic child to start therapy as soon as possible. “Don't give up,” she says. “Keep working and striving. One day you get a hug or a smile; it makes it all worthwhile.”
Symptoms of Autism:
Autism Awareness in the Wiregrass 333-435-6295
ACE Academy: All Children are Exceptional 334-699-1620
Child & Family Services 334-793-2237