Local Parent Strives To Raise Autism Awareness - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

04/11/03

Local Parent Strives To Raise Autism Awareness

Six-year-old Justin Kramer doesn't know what to make of the camera in his front yard as he returns home from school. But he knows it's chilly outside and he wants a little warmth.

"Justin is quite a unique individual who loves to play outside, does most of the things normal children enjoy in life," said mother Dawn Felton.

Justin was diagnosed with autism at three years old, which came as a surprise to his mother, who considered him a perfectly normal child a few weeks before the diagnosis.

"I have reason to believe that a vaccine - the MMR vaccine specifically - took my child's life away from him. Within two weeks time he regressed into a child who was banging his head on the concrete, clapping his hands, whereas when he was two years old, he was learning his ABCs, his 123s, speaking clearly and audibly. It's a sad thing but it's happening to very many children in our state and probably around the United States right now," said Felton.

And this is why Felton wants to do something to help those who can't fend for themselves.

Mental health professionals believe people with autism respond well to highly structured, specialized education programs, but Felton believes these types of programs are lacking in Mississippi.

"Some autistic children qualify for a year-round school year, OK, whereas other children do not, and it's because they have got to regain their skills in 10 weeks time of returning to school," said Felton.

A break in curriculum is like erasing everything they have learned and starting again from scratch. She believes it's not fair for those autistic children who do not qualify for a year round program.

"Our children have been swept under the rug enough in this state. If other states have adopted curriculum for the autistic, then why can't our state have adopted curriculum for the autistic?" said Felton.

She believes we need outreach programs for the parents of autistic children, as well as support groups, and mentors for the children.

Doctors don't know exactly what causes autism, and currently there is no cure.

By Karla Redditte

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