D'IBERVILLE, MS (WLOX) - New studies from the CDC suggest one in 50 children ages six to 17 are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.
"Children with Autism are different. They're not less."
That's what Sharon Brewer wants people to know this April, during Autism Awareness Month. Her six-year-old granddaughter, Lauren, is one of dozens of clients who have benefited from direct services offered at South Mississippi's only autism clinic. Brewer says Lauren's progress over the past two years has been remarkable.
"She's now starting to use sentences to voice her needs. In the past, she would just scream or she would bite herself. Or she would hit her head on the hard surface, and she's not doing that anymore."
The director of the Mississippi Center for Autism and Related Developmental Disorders, Dr. Aimee Tisdale says early diagnosis is critical to the success of students like Lauren.
"Autism is a spectrum disorder, so one of the points to remember that no two kids are alike," explains Dr. Tisdale.
The D'Iberville center helps screen children under six, and then focuses on providing them with early intervention services by teaching basic language and learning skills.
"I can tell you some of the most common things we work on whether we're working with a child who's two, or working with a child who's five, are some skills like requesting. Asking for things they want, asking for things they need," says Dr. Tisdale. "We teach them how to imitate. They don't naturally imitate what others do, which is the most basic form of learning."
Two-year-old Alex Robles is another student benefiting from services at the center. His mother sought help after noticing some red flags.
As Jacklyn Robles explained, "When I said his name, he would never respond to me, and that's just kind of not normal. And he never said Mamma or Dada. He's starting to word things, and it's amazing the things that they've taught him."
And with new numbers, showing Autism is more prevalent than ever before, the center's work is far from over.
"I think we need to have more places like this," expressed Brewer. "The number of children that are being diagnosed is growing. And this kind of intervention and help will let them have a normal life and be productive citizens when they're adults."
As for knowing when it's time to seek help for your child, Dr. Aimee Tisdale says there are several things parents should look for:
- Consider it a red flag if by six months, there are no big smiles, or other warm expressions to caregivers and other familiar people.
- By nine months, no back and forth sounds or facial expressions.
- No babbling by 12 months, no back and forth gestures by 12 months, like waving or pointing.
- No words by 16 months
- And by 24 months, no meaningful two word phrases.
Dr. Tisdale adds, "And of course at any time if there's any loss of skills, speech or otherwise, social skills, then that's something to be concerned about as well."
Learn more about the Mississippi Center for Autism and Related Developmental Disorders by visiting their website: http://www.mscentersforautism.org/index.html