Southeast Observes Autism Awareness Month

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., April 4, 2011ᾰThe Southeast Missouri State University Autism Center for Diagnosis and Treatment will observe Autism Awareness Month in April with a variety of events across the state that raise awareness and funding for Autism research.

Connie Hebert, director of the Southeast Autism Center for Diagnosis and Treatment, will speak in Jefferson City at a Missouri Autism rally beginning at 3 p.m. April 6.  The event, sponsored by the Missouri Autism Project Advisory Committee, is open to the public.  Families of people who struggle with Autism are encouraged to attend to visit with legislators and network with other families.  More information and the schedule for the day can be found by visiting http://www.missouriautismcoalition.com/autism_rally.

A workshop for conducting screenings for Autism spectrum disorders will be held on April 8 at the University Autism Center.  Dr. Victoria Moore, licensed clinical psychologist, and Elaine Beussink, speech language clinician, will conduct training for select University faculty and students.

The Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities in Columbia, Mo., will host an Autism Intervention Conference on April 15-16.   The conference, which is Missouri’s premiere conference for service providers and families, will feature speakers Dr. Peter Gerhardt, Dr. Mark Sundberg, Dr. John Constantino and Dr. Brenda Smith-Myles, among others, all well-known contributors to the field of Autism.  More information is available at http://muconf.missouri.edu/AIC2011/Index.html.

The Alpha Xi Delta sorority at Southeast is hosting its annual Walk Now for Autism Speaks and Alpha Xi Delta BBQ April 17.  The walk, which takes place at Capaha Park in Cape Girardeau, is open to the public.  Registration begins at 8:30 a.m., with the walk starting at 9:30 a.m.  A BBQ will be held after the completion of the walk at 11:30 a.m. Visit www.walknowforautismspeaks.org to make donations.  Additional information for the event can be found on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=201242743224188&ref=ts, or at the Autism Speaks website http://www.walknowforautismspeaks.org/faf/search/searchTeamPart.asp?ievent=463366&team=4051181.

The Southeast Autism Center for Diagnosis and Treatment along with Counseling and Disability Services is co-sponsoring a movie night, showing “Temple Grandin” at 6 p.m. April 18 in the University Center Program Lounge.  The award-winning HBO movie, starring Clare Danes, is a story of an Autistic woman who has become one of the top scientists in the humane livestock-handling industry and is a widely-respected presenter and author in the field of Autism.

The International Counseling Honor Society, Chi Sigma Iota, at Southeast will host a meeting on April 19 to focus on interventions and treatment for working with individuals diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Moore and Hébert will be the presenters for the evening. 

The St. Louis Cardinals celebrate Autism awareness at Busch Stadium on April 23.  The All-Stars for Autism game tickets are $40 and includes free parking and a pre-game party with all-you-can-eat ballpark food.  The first pitch between the Cardinals and the Cincinnati Reds is at 3:10 p.m. TouchPoint Autism Services of St. Louis with offices in southeast Missouri is supporting this celebration for families and fund raising for Autism along with several other organizations. To order tickets, call (314) 432-6200 or email development@touchpointautism.org.  More information is available on the TouchPoint website www.touchpoint.org

Autism and developmental screenings will be available on Friday, April 29, in Dexter, Mo.  The screenings are co-sponsored by the S.H.O.W. Mobile (Southeast Health on Wheels) at Southeast and the University Autism Center.  Families who have concerns regarding child development are encouraged to come to the S.H.O.W. Mobile for screenings. The S.H.O.W. Mobile operates out of the College of Health and Human Services in a partnership with Southeast Health.  Once time, location and procedures for obtaining an appointment are finalized, information will be available on the University Autism Center website at www.semo.edu/autismcenter or by calling (573) 986-4985.

Applications for Camp Connect 2011, an inclusive day camp for children ages five to 21 diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder and a ‘buddy’ camper, are available on the University Autism Center website www.semo.edu/autismcenter, listed under Events and Activities. Cost varies depending on half-day or full-day attendance and number of days attending. The camp is from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. June 13-17 at the University Autism Center. Campers staying all day must bring a sack lunch. Buddy campers are encouraged but not required for registration. Buddy campers may include siblings, neighbors, other relatives or friends of an individual with an Autism Spectrum Disorder attending the camp, and they receive a reduced registration fee. Space is limited.  A completed registration form and the materials fee are required for reservations. Limited scholarships are available to qualifying campers.

The University Autism Center welcomes visitors and small tour groups to the center at anytime, Hebert said. It also accepts invitations to speak at civic organizations, church groups, community groups and University classes throughout the year.  Please contact the center to schedule an appointment or extend an invitation at (573) 986-4985.

Autism Spectrum Disorders are a group of developmental disabilities that affects how the brain processes information and how some systems develop as children grow, causing some children to appear not to develop language or to develop language very differently than expected; to become over or under sensitive to different types of sensory input; or to gain the ability to hyper-focus on one topic and learn more than most can imagine about that one topic, sometimes at the expense of other learning, Hebert said.  Autism is considered a spectrum disorder because the cluster of symptoms can look so different in every child.  It ranges from having a very significant impact on growth and development to a very mild impact. Autism is estimated to affect one in 110 people, according to the Center for Disease Control, she said. Beginning intervention as early as possible is always the best approach with any disability, and that starts with knowing the developmental milestones for children and making sure your child’s development is ‘on-track,’ Hebert said. For a list of skills and abilities your child should have beginning by age 3 months up to 5 years, visit the Center for Disease Control website at www.cdc.gov/actearly

Some symptoms that are considered risk signs for a possible Autism Spectrum Disorder include: • Does not respond to people in general at any age• Experiences a dramatic loss of skills he or she once had at any age• Does not smile in response to your smile at three months• Does not laugh or make squealing sounds by six months• Does not respond to his or her name by seven months• Does not respond to “no” by seven months to one year• Is not shy or anxious around strangers by one year• Does not repeat or imitate sounds or gestures by one year• Does not show interest in other children by age two to three• Does not find objects hidden under other objects or covers by age two• Does not use two word sentences by age two• Has little or no involvement with pretend play by age three• Poor eye contact between ages two and three• Does not take turns by age three to four• Does not use “me” and “you” correctly by age four• Ignores other children at age four• Can’t tell the difference between fantasy and reality by age four• Does not talk about daily activities and experiences by age five

If your child or a child you know demonstrates more than one of these characteristics, there are several places you can go for information and screening to help determine if an evaluation is needed, Hebert said. Some options are to contact the Southeast Missouri State University Autism Center for Diagnosis and Treatment at (573) 986-4985 or contact First Steps for children ages birth to three years by calling toll free 1 (866) 583-2392.  You may also contact Parents as Teachers through your local school district for children ages six months to kindergarten entry, request a screening or evaluation through your local school district or contact your pediatrician or family doctor, she said.