Mother Petitions For Autism Awareness
KREX News Room
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo.- The number of autistic children in the United States is on the rise. The latest reports indicate that one out of 88 people have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
In Mesa County, autism cases are increasing as well, but one mother says there just aren't enough helpful programs for autism there.
Now she is doing something about it.
Amber Fowler is a mother of three, including her youngest, 2-year-old Jace Fowler, who was born with autism.
Fowler believes there need to be more early intervention and school programs locally to help reduce the severity of autism. "If we can get them the help that they need, there's a big chance that they won't be disabled when they're older," said Fowler.
Mesa Developmental Services has an early intervention program geared toward helping autistic children, but Fowler says they offer services only a couple times a week, and she worries it's not enough. "I think they want to help, but they just don't have enough help," said Fowler.
Fowler would like to see a better program in all schools for autistic children. "We need better special-ed programs in our schools now," said Fowler.
School District 51 officials say autism numbers increased 20 percent from last year among those age 6-21.
They say they've worked hard to implement programs specifically designed for autistic children. "Making sure that we have individualized special education programs and services to meet the children's needs," said Dr. Tanya Skalecki, executive director of student services.
Officials with MDS say many programs combine different disorders together and aren't specified to one area due to limited funding. "Behavioral approaches and there aren't group programs like that," said Sharon Jacksi, vice president of Behavioral Health and Wellness.
MDS officials hope that services like their new program, Audyssey, which offers sensory processing and social communication skills, will be an aid to the programs in schools. "It's true that services have been limited, but there's renewed interest in expanding services," said Jacksi.
Officials say there are about 200 kids in the school district with autism, and the district provides an autism specialist 24/7 to help those in need.
There are also programs at Orchard Avenue Elementary and Redlands Middle School. "Whatever a child needs in our district, determined by the IEP team, we make sure to provide those services based on what the child needs," said Skalecki. IEP stands for individual education program
Fowler's petition would help increase the number of programs available to help autistic children.
She has around 200 signatures and plans to go to city council meetings and the Board of Education to make a change.
There will be a fundraiser held at 2 p.m. Saturday at Columbine Park to help raise awareness and gather more signatures.