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Ward hopes to find help for families with autistic childPosted Friday, March 19, 2010, at 2:30 PM
Elijah Hall and his mother Jean (McBride) Ward.
The 14-year-old Elijah has autism and his mother has been battling the state to help fund some of the cost of his care.
They live near Sullivan now and are seeking to either get Elijah in a group home setting or have the state provide home nursing care several days a week.
Her case is a sad one, one that begs some answers as to why this family can not get significant and long-term help from state officials.
The family's situation is not unique.
Autism strikes often.
The prevalence of autism has risen to 1 in every 150 American children, and almost 1 in 94 boys.
Autism is a complex developmental disability and is the result of a neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the brain, impacting development in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Both children and adults with autism typically show difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities.
"With autism, people need to understand it's not a pity party. When are they going to open their eyes and see these kids need schools and these kids need help?" Ward asked.
The Autism Society estimates that the lifetime cost of caring for a child with autism ranges from $3.5 million to $5 million, and that the United States is facing almost $90 billion annually in costs for autism. This figure includes research, insurance costs and non-covered expenses, Medicaid waivers for autism, educational spending, housing, transportation, employment, in addition to related therapeutic services and caregiver costs.
She reminds everyone that autism is treatable and children do not "outgrow" autism, but studies show that early diagnosis and intervention lead to significantly improved outcomes.
Here are some signs to look for:
* Lack of or delay in spoken language.
* Repetitive use of language and/or motor mannerisms (e.g., hand-flapping, twirling objects).
* Little or no eye contact.
* Lack of interest in peer relationships.
* Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play.
* Persistent fixation on parts of objects.
Elijah's mother said she hopes to get her message out to the public during National Autism Awareness Week, which starts April 2.
At midnight, the Empire State Building in New York City will be lit up in blue lights to kick off the event nationally.
Ward has talked with Linton Mayor Tom Jones and Greene and Sullivan county officials about putting up banners and blue lights to being attention to the plight of individuals who suffer from autism.
Fred and Kathy Markle from Markle Music in Linton have donated the lettering for a six-foot long banner. It will be placed along U.S. 41 north of Sullivan on April 2.
She has also called the schools in Linton and Sullivan to ask them to commemorate the event with blue signs and banners.
"It's recognizing how many children are coming up with autism," Ward said. "It's important that we get more people involved."
Ward said the plight of her son is wearing on her.
She is tired and needing some help.
"The only thing I can turn to at night before I go to bed is to open the Bible and pray to God that somehow Elijah gets a chance at his life. He can light up the whole world with his smile."
Anyone who would like to contact Ward for more information about autism or about getting involved in a support group, call (812) 268-9999.
Nick is the assistant editor for the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached by telephone at 847-4487 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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