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Autism Society to be formed in SVG

Autism Society to be formed in SVG

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Parents, caretakers and teachers of children with autism will soon have additional support and access to information regarding the syndrome, with the establishment of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Autism Society.{{more}}

The steering committee for Autism Awareness and Parents’ Support Group held a press conference on Monday, March 26, 2012, at the Girls’ High School Library.

Member of the steering committee, Andrea Bowman, stated that the committee hopes to establish the society on Autism Day, Monday, April 2, 2012. The committee will also have a meeting with all parents, caregivers, educators and other personnel who interact with children and persons on the autistic spectrum at the Curriculum Unit Conference room on Monday, April 2, 2012, at 4:30 pm.

Bowman related that Autism is generally defined as a person’s disconnection from his or her environment. Bowman related that Loe Kanner, an Austrian American Psychiatrist, first published in 1943 his encounter with 11 children who were autistic.

“These 11 children were different than any he had seen before, while some of them were disabled. What they had in common was a language delay. Some had no language at all. They didn’t communicate or they didn’t have regular communications with repetitive behavior. They were referred to as particularly cold, and it was just a whole strange mix that was never seen before,” Bowman stated.

She added that as in 2006, studies in the USA stated that one in every 86 children was under the autistic spectrum. The aim of the society, Bowman explained, is to advocate for autistic children; they also hope to build awareness of autism, and liase with regional and international Autism societies.

“We have to be able to have teams that can diagnose children; we have to be able to get the best possible educational help to our children, and we have to be able to develop that confidence to know that there is hope for them and they can do the best that they can possibly do,” Bowman said.

Jocelyn Blake Browne, another member of the steering committee, explained that autistic children have several needs in the classroom.

“The classroom situation is very diverse and very complex. On a day to day basis, you will see lots of diversities, and you can imagine how difficult it is for regular class teachers to identify the differences of regular children, much less to those with autism,” Blake Browne said.

Blake Browne explained that children with Autism may have little language and or no language at all, and may just string words together to express themselves. Blake Browne stated that educators need to find other ways of communicating with Autistic children through gestures or pictures.

She added that persons with autism also have physical challenges, including vision or hearing problems, and may have difficulty maneuvering.

She advised that parents and educators of autistic children develop a routine and structure at home and school to assist the children. Blake-Browne stated that the environment plays an important part, as a simple noise, or the humming of a computer or the noise of a cell phone may throw off an autistic child completely. She added that having an established daily routine is important, and sticking to that routine is essential.

“On a day-to-day basis, you have to put structures in place. You can’t unexpectedly change the routine. That too can throw them off,” Blake Browne said.

Teacher at the School for Children with Special Needs Terrance David, who works with Autistic children, also stated that establishing a routine is important. He added that autistic children need more attention than regular children.

He added that while some can write and read, most children cannot. In those cases, visual aids can be used.

Mother of a 12-year-old Autistic son, Vasilka Hull Findlay, also on the steering committee, stated that when she noticed a difference in her son, who is one half of a twin, she told friends and family and later a pediatrician who correctly diagnosed him with Autism.

Hull-Findlay stated that though being a parent of an autistic child is challenging, her son is fun to be around.

“As a parent, I want to see more done for these children, because I know that they have the potential to excel if they are given the chance, if things are put in place for them to do so.”

Roy George, another member of the steering committee, also has a 10-year-old Autistic son and noticed differences in his son, who was later diagnosed with the syndrome.

According to information provided by the committee, early signs of autism include: rare eye contact when interacting with others, no big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions at six months. At Nine months, there is no back and forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions and little babbling. At 12 months, there will be no back and forth gestures, repetitive movements such as rocking or hand flapping and no response when their name is called. At sixteen months, there will be few words, and at twenty-four months there will be no meaningful two-word phrases; they will avoid or ignore other children when they approach, or loss of words, babbling or social skills.

Bowman stated that according to medical professionals in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, there are eleven diagnosed cases of autism in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. She, however, added that she suspects that there are more.

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