SOME FACTS ABOUT AUTISM
Autism is a neurological disorder that affects a person's ability to communicate, socialize and interact with other people.
Symptoms of autism may include: lack of eye contact, lack or loss of language skills, lack of appropriate play skills, tantrums, self-stimulatory behaviours (such as spinning, hand flapping or head banging), sensitivity to environmental stimuli and inability to understand social cues.
1 in 59 are diagnosed with autism; 1 in 37 boys and 1 in 151 girls. (March 2014 CDC report based on 2010 data)
Boys are 4 times more likely to have autism.
More children are diagnosed with autism than diabetes, cancer and AIDS, combined.
There is no known cause or cure.
In Lincoln, Nebraska, the majority of the children with autism will never move out of this community.
It is our privilege to enable those with autism to live both their childhood and adulthood to their fullest potential, assisting their families along the way through community, medical, academic, social, and spiritual support.
Commentary By Melinda Scheich, Former AFN Board Member
The families who have children with autism are some of the most wonderful families I have ever met. Their love for their children is immeasurable. In the book Rex by Cathleen Lewis, the picture of their sacrificial bond is made so clear:
“Then came Rex. A steely bond of love gripped my heart when I looked into my baby’s eyes. Unshakeable, unbreakable, beyond any emotion I’d ever felt! Little did I know, those beautifully innocent baby blues were the eyes of the perfect storm that would bring down the world as I knew it. Conditioning, expectations, standards. Rex’s whole being was about uncertainty and lack of guarantee. I could have no expectations … not even the most basic for the child I loved so intensely.
“Devastated by grief and without any point of reference from my life experience, Rex’s birth plunged me into confusion, despair, and utter hopelessness. He was a hurricane wrapped in a baby blanket, smashing the foundation of my existence, a tornado pushing me this way and that, leaving me spinning in unknown space, clinging only to my baby boy, hanging on for our lives. The only thing I knew back then was that I couldn’t let go of my child. I was his mother, and that bond of love seemed the only absolute I could trust. God gave me Rex … and showed me that true joy is inside and doesn’t come from things or conditions … Through a little boy whose body and mind were under daily assault, the whole world came to me.”
Understandably, these wonderful parents are exhausted. Their children often “look normal” and are misunderstood as intentionally causing challenges to their parents. This is simply not true.
In addition to family stress and emotional fatigue, families experience very real financial struggles. Some of our families are paying thousands of dollars per month out-of-pocket for expenses related to communication, occupational, physical and psychological therapies, medication, doctor visits and counseling. Insurance is covering less and less of these expenses, yet research stresses the importance of early intervention. Our courageous parents make great sacrifices to best love their child.
Emotionally drained at the end of the work day, a parent must now methodically teach their child the simple routines of daily life that we assume everyone knows for them to reach the next milestone. For example, if your child wanted to play t-ball, you take them to the field, put on a helmet, put a bat or glove in their hand and stand back and cheer.
However, it may take a month for a parent of a child with autism to “desensitize” their child to the helmet – it is way too tight on his head. Each night, bringing the helmet closer and closer to allay his fears – then leaving it on a bit longer each time – all the while feeding him the only food he will eat (Cheese Nips) to take his mind off the helmet. We haven’t even mentioned the bat, the ball, the running away each chance he gets, the noise, and the scary vastness of the big open field! And that is just baseball – not school, not church, not mealtime …
With the current rate of autism diagnosis now at 1:88, the Autism Family Network was founded to support families who have children with autism. We provide connection, encouragement and help in the midst of frustration, discouragement, and loneliness that is very real for our families.