Most of us know about Autism. In 2007 a study confirmed that one child in 150 is diagnosed with autism and more recent studies show that it is on the rise. The cause at this time is unknown, but there much speculation. What is known is that studies suggest boys are more inclined to develop autism than girls; and the average age of diagnosis is 8 years. Hearing this diagnosis for a child can be devastating; and parents have a lot to endure once the particulars of their child's diagnosis is set forth. The costs involved could potentially cause financial ruin, but with research they will find that programs and financial aid are available to help.
But, what about the children? For them, their parents are their heroes. And, what happens when the parents aren't around, when these children are in school programs away from home? Who are those other heroes who step in to care for these children? Where do these heroes come from, and why do they give their time and effort to help implement the various programs?
There are select government programs available to help parents and children with autism find financial support and treatment. The objective of these programs is to educate and develop children so that some day they will be able to function and maintain a quality life for themselves. The state of Kansas requires that caregivers should hold at least a bachelors or masters in speech therapy, occupational therapy, psychology, applied behavioral sciences and social work programs. They are the other heroes. They look out for the children with autism. Being there for the kids is a labor of love.
In my search to learn why these individuals took it upon themselves to follow this path, I interviewed a few of these heroes.
My first interview was with Charla. She is a pediatric occupational therapist who works with autistic children in need of physical therapy, in their homes. The programs offered by her organization are occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, special instruction (for those birth to 3), and behavioral therapy. Charla is married with two small girls whom she loves to play games with. She recognizes that autism is a growing issue affecting children and can greatly impact a family's life. Her desire is to help the child, along with the family, learn physical therapy techniques to improve movement. Charla has a bachelor degree in psychology and a masters in occupational therapy, both included training with autism. In regards to her experiences with autistic children, she feels each child she encounters is an individual. She sees how differently autism has affected them and their lives. Most need work on social skills, sensory integration and motor skills. In her professional opinion, each child in unique and requires unique treatment. Some may have mild cases while others are more severe. The rewards for her personally are when she sees that a child has gained a new skill, and that the family is able to handle the situation. Charla feels the best advice for parents is to research and to enlist help from someone they trust. She feels that some of the options cost lots of money and are not always covered by insurance. In conclusion, Charla is very happy with her career choice.
I had an opportunity to speak with Elsie. She retired from the banking industry after 33 years of service. She took the initiative to go back to school and earned a degree in social work. She has been married for more than 35 years. She has 3 children and 4 grandchildren. I asked Elsie why she wanted to work with children who were autistic, she stated that she has always wanted to do it. Her career as a bank manager was great. After she retired, she decided to go back to school to earn a degree. She wanted to serve families and children with autism. She works in the local high school and loves what she does. Every day she encounters new successes with the kids. She looks forward to going in everyday to see them grow, change and become more independent. She is always ready and eager to answer questions the parents may have about their child's progress. She keeps informed of new funding that has become available, and any new services or programs. Her advice to parents is for them to get informed and connect with their doctors, state agencies, and their insurance carriers. She wants parents to be aware that having children with autism is costly, but the costs can be managed.
I was very excited that I had the opportunity to interview these ladies. In my opinion, they are the other heroes. They work with and for the kids. If I had a child with special needs, I would want to know that my child is safe and receiving the same love, respect and attention as if I were there. I would like to offer a special thanks to all of the other heroes who take the time to give and care for the children who need them.