Ms. Steeter-Colbert describes her son Jayden’s developmental success in a video testimonial on the Crossroads for Growth, Inc. Web site. He is now able to feed himself and say words. He achieved this through the early intervention services at Crossroads for Growth, Inc., a nonsectarian, nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide comprehensive assistance to New Jersey’s families that have children with autism spectrum disorders.
Jayden has autism spectrum disorder (ASD), like his two brothers, and many other children. Autism spectrum disorder affects the development of essential communications, social, and behavioral skills. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 out of every 110 children has an ASD, which can be characterized by a range of symptoms with varied severity. Symptoms include: delayed speech and language skills, having trouble understanding other people's feelings, or talking about their own feelings, and echolalia, or repeating words or phrases over and over.
On Dec. 18, 2007, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution which declared April 2 World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD). The WAAD resolution encourages member states to take measures to raise awareness about autism and to encourage early diagnosis and early intervention. This U.N. resolution is one of only three official disease-specific United Nations days.
“Families struggle to obtain the necessary services for their autistic children and are constantly fighting with schools for proper placement and home programs,” said Linda Lajterman, founder of Crossroads for Growth, in a press release.
According to the CDC, ASDs begin before the age of 3 and last throughout a person's life, although symptoms may improve over time. Some children with an ASD show hints of future problems within the first few months of life. In others, symptoms might not show up until age 24 months or later.
There are organizations that provide services to support children with autism and their families.
Crossroads for Growth, Inc. provides applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy. The technique aims to improve socially important behaviors by using interventions based on principles of learning theory. It also provides professional care management, a collaborative process that assesses, plans, implements, coordinates, monitors, and evaluates the options and services required to meet the client’s health and human services needs. “We only provide services that are science-based—ABA therapy is our main service, although we offer a full spectrum of behavioral assessments and plan implementation,” stated Lajterman.
Integrated, Advanced Clinical Help
While many families may struggle to obtain all of the necessary services for their children, there are organizations such as the Marcus Autism Center, a nonprofit organization, based in Atlanta, that provide information, services, and programs to children with autism and related disorders, their families and those who live and work with them. They offer integrated advanced clinical, behavioral, educational, and family support services through a single organization to reduce the stress for families.
In Kelowna, Canada, the Arion Theraputic Farm offers educational classes to families of newly diagnosed children with autism. The farm also provides therapeutic horse riding, animal therapy and farm discovery, and life and social skills development.
The World Autism Awareness Day Web site lists events held around the world held by organizations that work year round to support children and adults with autism.
Cameroon will hold a four-day celebration, organized by Centre Orchidée Home, with three days of training for nurses and education professionals starting April 2.
In Dijon and Burgundy, France, the Association Respir Burgundy—which provides a variety of services to families affected by autism—in partnership with the city of Dijon, will join the World Autism Awareness Day for the first time with a free concert and photo exhibition.
In the United States on April 14, Sensory Time, a new indoor play center in Murieta, California, specially designed for children with autism and other special needs is hosting an art exhibit that will display art from autistic children between the ages of 5 and 25. The event is sponsored by the Autism Society of America Inland Empire Chapter and KVCR.
Events are also scheduled in Spain, Taiwan, Australia, Canada, South Africa, and Scotland.