A SusanvilleStuff Feature
by Melissa Blosser
April is Autism Awareness Month and it doesn’t matter if you are or aren’t personally affected by autism, this month everyone has the opportunity to show community support of families and individuals affected by Autism.
According to the Center for Disease Control Autism is a neural development disorder that affects how the brain processes information by disrupting the mind’s ability to connect and organize sensory stimuli, verbal communication and cognitive recall.
Thanks to ‘Autism Speaks’, a world-wide organization helping raise awareness and research opportunities to prevent the disorder, April is full of rallies, events, walks, fundraisers and nationwide community-based support of individuals and families.
Children with autism suffer from impaired socialization and communication skills. Symptoms of the disorder often appear before the age of 3. It is still unknown as to what causes autism, but factors may include environmental pollution, genetic bias and early exposure to toxins, poisonous metals or pesticides.
Through Far Northern Regional Center, a state-funded Regional program for people with disabilities, children can start to receive services as early as 18 months. Once a child is suspected of having a disability such as Autism, Far Northern will help the family coordinate services such as speech therapy, Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy, transportation to school and occupational therapy.
Hand and Hand Inc., in Susanville, was started by Debbie Baehler to provide ABA therapy to children with Autism in Lassen County. ABA therapy uses techniques to help individuals with autism learn specific skills, such as how to communicate, develop relationships, play, care for themselves, learn in school, succeed at work and participate fully and productively in family and community activities.
“ABA therapy is a service to the families, at generally no cost, and can make a huge difference,” said Baehler. “Through the data we have collected, we found that 85% of kids that go through our program will be mainstreamed in public schools,” she said.
Through the Lassen County Office of education many kids with Autism attend the infant/toddler program and then progress into the special education preschool at McKinley School. Through these programs the children receive transportation, speech therapy and occupational therapy in a controlled safe environment suitable to their needs.
Symptoms of Autism are usually noticed first by parents and typically during the child’s first 3 years.
Because Autism is a spectrum disorder, the symptoms vary from child to child. These symptoms might include sensory dysfunction, sleep disorders, self-abusive behavior and lack of verbal communication. The only symptoms all people with Autism do have in common across the spectrum are challenges, disabilities or delays in the area of social communication.
“Through the help of the programs facilitated through Far Northern our family has learned to understand, accept and love the way our son sees the world,” said Blosser.
“I can’t thank them enough for the things they have done for the children in this community diagnosed with Autism,”
For more information on local Autism resources, or if you suspect a child you love might be experiencing symptoms you can contact the Lassen County Office of Education at 257-7266.
“Autism is the one disability, if you intervene early, you can really make a difference,” said Baehler. “You can’t say that about any other disability,” she said.