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April goes blue for autism in Tupelo

Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal - 4/2/2018

April 02--Tupelo will go blue in April to lift up the Autism Center of North Mississippi and the families it serves.

"Every year it gets bigger and bigger," said Brittany Cuevas, the center's director of business development and administration. "It's exciting to see Tupelo get more and move involved."

Today, Tupelo Parks and Recreation Department will host a Burger Frenzy behind Tupelo City Hall. On April 7, the center will host its annual 5K at Ballard Park. In Mantachie, Crossfit White Horse will host the Pick up the Pieces Autism 5K on April 28.

Local restaurants are hosting special events with proceeds benefiting the autism center. Businesses purchase T-shirts to support the center and host blue jeans day fundraisers to help the center. A Facebook campaign is sharing the experiences of families dealing with autism.

"It's pretty cool," Cuevas said. "We want the whole community to embrace autism."

Autism covers a spectrum of developmental disorders that impact a child's ability to communicate and interact. There are nearly 11,000 children in Mississippi with autism spectrum disorders. Early, intensive intervention is considered the best opportunity to impact a child's future ability to learn and function, Cuevas said.

"There are so many families in Mississippi who can't access services because they're aren't enough providers," Cuevas said.

After years of advocacy work, the center is now receiving Medicaid reimbursements to help pay for applied behavioral analysis therapies.

"We're grateful for the progress we're making," Cuevas said.

However, Mississippi's Medicaid reimbursement levels are much lower than neighboring states, and it's hard to attract and retain the certified staff needed to treat more children, Cuevas said.

"The autism center will have to continue to rely on grants and fundraising," Cuevas said. "We will need other funds to offset the costs."


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