Autism awareness has been near to my heart recently as I have learned that the son of a good friend has been diagnosed with PPD-NOS, a mild form of Autism. After researching more about autism, I was shocked to discover that autism affects 1 in every 110 children, affecting four times as many boys as girls. “The prevelance of autism has increased 57% from 2002 to 2006. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called autism a national public health crisis whose cause and cure remain unknown.”
Her son, Declan, is a brilliant 5-yr old boy who was reading full books at the age of 2 and has an unbelievable photographic memory. She never he suspected him of having autism because he was so loving, affectionate and social…he was verbal and did not possess any traits of an introverted personality. But, in her own words, “… that’s where I had to grow. I was like most people and thought autism was this ‘set’ type of disorder and it looked the same on everyone.” After extensively researching, reading, and reaching out to people affected by Autism, she started to notice and observe Declan’s struggles with fine motor skills, a severe food aversion, and a strong sensitivity to noise and touch, along with other behavior signs. They had him tested and he was diagnosed with PPD-NOS.
Declan is now attending a private school which provides him the right tools (including occuaptional and speech therapy) he needs to work through his obstacles. They feel blessed that they have the means to provide this for their son, but it breaks her heart that there are very few resources out there for many who cannot afford specialized treatment or receive adequate public services for their children.
I have joined in her efforts to make others aware of this growing concern that affects so many children today. This Friday is the Third Annual World Autism Awareness Day. Here are some ways to get involved, purchase a WAAD t-shirt or candle, become a fan of World Autism Awareness Day on Facebook, or if you know of someone who is looking for community resources, have them attend Houston’s Picnic in the Park (Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Awareness Fair) on April 10 from 12-4pm at George Bush Park.
Want to read more about autism? Here are some on-line resources:
Another way I’ve recently become involved was volunteering to speak at the Monarch School with students enrolled in their Life Academy Program. The Life Academy strives to help their students “learn the business of life” by bringing in business men and women from the community to speak on their business experiences and life lessons. I had the privilege of being asked to speak at the Monarch School last fall. The students were looking for some help improving their photography skills. Specifically, they use photography for product shots (they sell jewelry, wreaths, and gift baskets to raise proceeds to benefit their Life Academy and to grow student run businesses), newsletter photos, and capturing students participating in their various projects. I had so much fun with the students that I am going back to visit soon! Next time, I hope to bring some other photographer friends along with me to give them some more one-on-one mentoring time!
The Monarch School in Houston serves the special education needs of children with neurological differences such as Autism (incl Asperger’s & PPD-NOS), Attention Deficit Disorder, Learning Disabilities, Tourette’s Syndrome, Mood Disorders (Bipolar Disorder, Depression), and Anxiety Disorders. They educate children from early childhood to post-high school, with ages range from 3-25 yrs. The Monarch students are “bright, intelligent children whos social awareness and emotional regulation interfere with their ability to learn. The development of executive functioning skills is essential to their ability to be successful.”
Go check out their new campus, it is amazing! ” The metaphor of the Monarch butterfuly exemplifies the work of The Monarch School – changing lives from the inside out. The goal of the new campus is to create a build environment that works seamlessly with and empowers the process of transformation.”
Thank you, John, for welcoming me to your classrooms. I look forward to our next visit!