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Autism is issue for community

News Enterprise - 12/28/2017

ISSUE: Helping families with autism spectrum

OUR VIEW: Caring community will step up

One means of judging a society is how it cares for its most vulnerable members.

People living in the autism spectrum require special services and care, which can be complex and quite specialized. Often families seeking the best for their child encounter difficulty connecting with the right specialists or encounter waiting lists for services.

Classified as a disorder, autism might best be viewed as a difference in perception.

A mental condition, it is characterized by difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people. As children, first signs may include avoiding eye contact, late development of speech, sudden emotional outbursts and struggling with fine motor skills necessary to feed themselves. It also can be accompanied by recurring behaviors often employed as a calming mechanism.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 1 in 68 children have a form of autism, it is not simple to diagnose. Symptoms are not uniform and the degree of developmental issues can vary greatly.

But achievement is possible. As one local parent recently said: "He's not a cripple. He can learn and be successful and go to college ? He'll just get there a little slower."

Just as their perceptions of the world differ, their path to success will be equally unique.

Occupational, physical and speech therapy programs all can be helpful. Early intervention programs are important and local schools provide assistance and programming to address the need.

But parents express frustration that many opportunities are not readily available outside of Louisville or a similar metropolitan area. Room for improvement seems obvious.

Autism Speaks, a national organization, offers an Autism Response Team of people specially trained to connect families dealing with autism to information, tools and resources. That connection is available by calling 888-288-4762 or sending an email to

For the average community member, families ask for patience and understanding. A child with autism struggles with an overload of stimuli at times. Meltdowns occur and families struggle to integrate these unique people into everyday settings such as trips to the grocery or worship services.

Ideally, a caring community would offer support and kindness rather than isolation and judgment. Learning about autism and helping individuals and families embrace this disorder will require Hardin County to be a more gracious, mature and caring place.

In that way, autism can transform a community for the better.

This editorial reflects a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.


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