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Local families raise awareness of autism

By Paula Walter
April is Autism Awareness Month. The autism rate in the United States is currently one in every 68 births, equating to more than 3.5 million people in the country who fall somewhere on the autism spectrum. There has been a 30 percent increase in this disorder in the past two years. The cause is not known, but researchers believe medical issues, genetics and heredity play a role. The average age for children to be diagnosed is four years old.
Within the autism spectrum are a range of different conditions that vary in severity, characterized by difficulties communicating and interaction with others, repetitive behavior and often perseverating on one particular interest or a certain activity. They may have trouble making eye contact, do not recognize their name when called and often do not speak or have delays in speech. There are various medical conditions that are often associated with people with autism, including intellectual disabilities and seizures.
Amanda Albery has two sons, nine-year-old Kole and eight-year-old Kyan. According to Albery, although the boys have very different personalities, they both have been diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome that falls in the autism realm. Kole is sensitive to bright lights, is tactile sensitive with clothing material and certain foods. He only likes certain textures. Kole’s speech was delayed and he didn’t begin speaking until he was roughly four years old. According to his mom, he often perseverates on issues and has trouble letting go. “He’s more reserved than Kyan,” Albery said. Kyan is chattier than his brother, interacts well with other children but also has more behavior issues and can be persistent. “He marches to the beat of his own drum,” she said. Both children and mom are learning sign language, and Albery added the boys respond well to it.
“I’ve come to grips with it,” said Albery as she discussed life with her two sons on the autism spectrum. “It will never go away. You have to learn to work with it. Everyone knows what a spectrum is. It’s color and light. I’ve got two kids on the spectrum. That’s twice the spectrum, twice the vibrance. I love my boys. I get to see the world through different eyes. I see the world the way they do. It’s brighter in areas. Everything is different, different, not less. Everything is more. I thank God every day for my boys, autism and all. If it weren’t for kids with autism, the world would be dull. I wouldn’t change anything for the world. They are my world.”
For the rest of the story, pick up a copy of this week's Tomahawk.