BY JEN FARNSWORTH
A time not too long ago, families with a child diagnosed withaAutism were faced with many unanswered questions, with a scarcity of true experts in sight. Today the support for those with autistic children has become more comprehensive and accessible as advances in science, medicine and counseling have been more abundant.
Like many other disabilities or even illnesses, having a support system can get you through trying times. Often times those affected by autism will say the knowledge you are not alone even though there are still unanswered questions, is a major benefit. For those in the Capital District there are experts who can make things manageable.
Janine Kruiswijk, executive director for the Autism Society of the Greater Capital Region said understanding the statistics is just the first step in grasping autism and realizing how common it is. Kruiswijk said Autism is a complex developmental disability affecting an individual in the areas of social interaction and communication. She said you often hear the term “spectrum” which is a way of determining each individual differently as the condition varies in its’ degree of severity. The society reports as many as 1.5 million Americans, both children and adults, are thought to have autism today. Kruiswijk said it’s important to get out during awareness month to see all there is available. Especially during April, the month designated as autism awareness month.
“There are many opportunities to get out and take part of Autism Awareness [Month]. We’ll be over at Crossgates Mall on Saturday, April 30, with our outreach tables. We also have an autism awareness ribbon campaign going on which is a paper ribbon that people buy at local businesses, ” said Kruiswijk.
Ballston Spa mom of four Debbie Ronca has two children who fall on the spectrum. She said networking and looking to other families, especially after just being diagnosed is crucial. She said people don’t realize how many families are in the same situation and talking with them can really take away the initial feeling of loneliness many parents and older siblings sometimes feel.
“Other parents can be a tremendous help and help give you the mechanisms to use that you may not find anywhere else,” said Ronca.
Ronca said it’s important to get the child into available services as soon as possible and to take advantage of what your school district has to offer as well as other services that may help in addition to school as well as beyond school aged years. Ballston Spa Central School District special education teacher and Ride4Austism committee Chairperson Julie Slichko said there is a very strong support system in Ballston Spa, between parents, educators and community based programs.
“There are networks, supportive parents, many, many resources for families,” said Slichko.