Counterpoint Autism Services
It's a one in 91 diagnosis impacting us all
Autism is a developmental disability characterized by difficulties with social interaction, problems with verbal and non verbal communication and repetitive behaviors or narrow or obsessive interests. Asperger Syndrome, Rett Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder fall under the broad category of Autism Spectrum Disorders. Prior to the 1990's, the occurrence of autism was about 3-5 individuals per 10,000. Today, 1 in 91 children are diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autism Spectrum Disorders are more common than pediatric cancer, diabetes and AIDS combined. It is four times more likely to strike boys than girls. The diagnosis of autism has increased tenfold in the last decade and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identifies autism as a National Public Health Crisis.
Though the different Autism Spectrum Disorders may differ in the number and intensity of the behavioral symptoms they share, each individual can have varying skills, deficits and aptitudes. One individual may be severely incapacitated, while another individual with the same diagnosis may only appear to be a bit different and lacking in social graces. What it all boils down to is that there is no standard type or typical person with an Autism Spectrum Disorder as they present a wide spectrum of abilities.
What does the future hold?
As researchers are frantically searching for answers to the questions that autism presents, we continue to grapple with the challenges it brings. What happens to those children and their families as they become older and the support systems that worked really well for them as a child no longer fit the current needs of that individual and their family? The challenges they face as they move into their teen and young adult years are a relatively new frontier.
The Arc currently serves 30+ individuals with an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis. To help address our needs locally, we have developed a new program with an autism focus. This new program is headed up by Alisa Lowry and Ben Thatcher. Some of the core components of the program are specialized staff training specific to autism such as communication, sensory, safety, behavior alternatives, physiological concerns and common deficiencies related to Autism Spectrum Disorders, and appropriate social interaction focusing on building meaningful relationships and daily adaptive skills.
There are many expert agencies and organizations in Springfield that provide information and services to individuals and families with autism. The Arc is currently in the process of networking with these agencies, finding out "what" they do, and "how" it fits with the services The Arc provides. We are becoming involved in the autism community locally as well as statewide and are excited about learning and contributing.
Many individuals and their families tell us they must frequently confront social, behavioral, health care and vocational challenges. This "map" of challenges has many roads. Some have helpful stops along the way providing clear directions to the end location but some roads are narrow and dark, occasionally leading to dead ends and frustration. The Arc wants to be able to help families navigate those roads by providing them with individualized services that incorporate residential, behavioral, recreational, social and vocational assistance as needed.
Alisa Lowry, Program Director says, "the goal of the program is to create an individually tailored support system to individuals and their families by building on personal strengths, improving social skills and assisting families to maximize each individual's independence and capacity to participate meaningfully in community and family life". Everyone knows someone whose life is touched by autism; question is, 'How can we provide information and support to everyday people whose everyday lives are touched by autism to help give them what they need?'
For more information on Autism check out the following websites:
- Southwest Missouri Autism Project
- Missouri Autism Report
If you have questions or would like more information about our program please contact Alisa Lowry or Ben Thatcher at (417) 864-7887.