Editorial: Giving Autism the Awareness It Deserves in Lawrence County

April is  Autism Awareness Month, a time to throw light on a condition  that impacts many families in our area and across the nation.  
According to the CDC’s Autism and Development Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network, about 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with the condition. Symptoms often begin before the age of three and include social impairments, communication difficulties and repetitive behaviors.
Autism continues to perplex health professionals, as its cause is still unknown. Receiving a diagnosis can produce anxiety for families, and many feel isolated because of a lack of understanding about the condition.
Though we may not fully grasp all that autism encompasses, there are services and supports available that can assist families in achieving positive outcomes for their loved ones. Lawrence County Developmental Disabilities (LCDD) provides Early Intervention services to eligible children and their families through the age of three, a time when intervention has shown to be the most effective. Early Intervention, provided in the home, is based on a core team model consisting of Service Coordinators, Developmental Specialists, Speech, Occupational and Physical Therapists, and Nursing.
Mary Ferguson, Developmental Specialist says that Early Intervention helps identify resources that are available to help families as they take on this new chapter in life with their child. Providing the support in their natural environment helps coach the child and family in a comfortable setting, which is beneficial for a child with autism.
Another Developmental Specialist, Traci Brace, reinforces this idea, saying those in her profession help families understand that having autism does not have to define who their child is. Brace says that early intervention helps the family focus on what their child can do rather than what they cannot do.
For Tammy Fennimore-Taylor, being a Developmental Specialist who works with families living with autism touches her on a personal level.
“Autism has a great impact on myself and my family both personally and professionally,” says Fennimore-Taylor. “I have a 14 year old son, Jackson, who is autistic with my husband. I know that he has made great progress and overcome major obstacles due to the amazing early intervention he received from our programs.
“This ongoing experience helps me identify with families who have been told or observed that their child’s development is not occurring as expected. “Autism is growing and becoming more and more prevalent,” says Fennimore-Taylor. “Therefore it is essential to get these children as soon as possible into early intervention services.”
No two people are the same, and autism affects people in different ways. It’s best to address autism early and often - the more understanding we have, the more effective we can be in supporting those with autism and their families.

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