D'IBERVILLE, MS (WLOX) - Children with autism often lack communication and social skills, and those behavioral challenges can prevent them from learning at home and at school. This week, parents and educators are picking-up some alternative teaching techniques at an Autistic Conference in D'Iberville.
Shelia Ervin is determined to educate people about what she calls a disability of the mind. Her nine year old son William is autistic. A simple outing can turn noisy in an instant, because William lacks verbal communication skills.
"A lot of times it's a screaming match. It's head butting. He can become very distraught very easily. So then, of course, the other children don't want to play with him because they don't understand," said Ervin.
The children's ministry at Ervin's church wants to help William. Six church members are attending an Autism Conference, hosted by the Mississippi Center for Autism and Related Developmental Disabilities in D'Iberville.
Thirty-five parents, family members, friends, and teachers are learning how to break down the communication and education barriers when working with autistic children. For instance, they can use pictures, sign language, and stories that focus on social interaction.
"We wanted to bring together parents and education personnel so they would both hear the same techniques, so parents would understand what teachers are going to be doing in their classrooms, and also how they can follow up at home," said June Burr, Director of Center Operations.
"It's not that they can't learn. The question is you have to meet them on their level to how they can learn," said Ervin. "I think it's a wonderful thing, especially for our teachers."
Based on a 2009 study, more than 1,500 Mississippians ages three to 21 are autistic. Experts say early diagnosis and intervention can help autistic children learn and lead productive lives.
"The whole area of autism is one that is growing phenomenally through the U.S. now and so many children are affected and there are a lot of questions that people have about what to do with this child that has autism," said Burr. "If they get this intervention early on, it can mean the difference of being a productive citizen or one who is at home and not able to work or be in the community."
The Summer Autism Conference continues Tuesday at the D'Iberville Civic Center. Teachers will learn how to set up their classrooms that will cater to the learning styles of autistic children.