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The Center for Disease Control and Prevention released findings last month that show the number of children with autism has increased to one in 50.
But with so many children affected, and more than 100 years after autism was first identified, much remains a mystery about the developmental disorder that causes varying levels of impaired social interaction, delayed and disordered language and isolated areas of interest.
Brandy Close and Jennifer Houk, owners of the Kid SpOt Center in Campbellsville, say they hope an event they have scheduled for April 27 in honor of Autism Awareness Month will give families affected by autism an opportunity to build friendships with other families and help the community understand more about autism.
“It’s going to be just a fun day for the children that have autism to kind of get out in the community and everybody from the community get to know them and see what’s really going on with autism,” Shannon Gootee, an occupational therapist for the Kid SpOt Center, said.
Close said the event will be at the Kid Wise Center by Miller Park in Campbellsville. The children will play in inflatable activity centers and arcade, as well as participate in other games.
Campbellsville Mayor Tony Young will attend and will issue a proclamation declaring April 27 as Autism Awareness Day in Campbellsville.
Young said he has a personal interest in autism awareness because he has a 9-year-old granddaughter with autism.
“She has big blue eyes, is pretty as can be,” Young said. “It just breaks your heart that there are some challenges she will have to face and probably will for the rest of her life.”
But since her diagnosis, Young said his family has done the best they can to learn more about autism and available therapies to help support her development.
Young said he loves reading and helping his granddaughter study spelling words because he marvels at her ability to stay so focused.
“It’s amazing the talent that she has in some areas,” Young said. “Just a little bit of extra care goes a long way.”
Several door prizes will be given away, including an iPad mini. Autism awareness T-Shirts will also be available for $10.
Between the two centers located in Campbellsville and Elizabethtown, Kid SpOt has about 300 children who come for various types of therapy. According to Houk, about 75 percent of the children have autism.
She said parents often struggle with feelings of guilt and might blame themselves for their child’s autism diagnosis.
“We just try to help the parents understand that it’s nothing that they did, nobody knows why,” Houk said. “But it’s not anything that a parent has done wrong.”
To give parents of children with autism or other disabilities an opportunity to share their experiences and struggles, and to discuss current studies about autism, Kid SpOt now offers a monthly support group. Ashleigh Durham, a speech-language pathologist and co-leader of the support group, said The Missing Piece support group is open to any parent or family member of a person with a special need.
“It’s really been very therapeutic for a lot of our families talking to each other and just realizing that someone out there is experiencing the same thing that they’re experiencing, when forever they thought they were the only people,” Durham said.
According to Houk, they have had some difficulty getting parents involved with the support group, but are hopeful it will grow into a supportive gathering that parents will look forward to. Close said to better meet the needs of children with autism, they now accept medical cards and also have a psychologist who comes once a month to do developmental assessments to diagnose autism and other disorders. Previously, Houk said, some children were placed on a two-year waiting list.
“We just want parents to know that help is out there for them, so they don’t have to be afraid of the diagnosis,” Close said.