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Natural Awakenings Space & Treasure Coast Florida

Special Kids Coping in Today’s World ~ Support for Autism Spectrum Disorders

Apr 07, 2011 06:34PM

It has happened again. Andrew’s mom received the call she has come to dread. Andrew is in the principal’s office. There was an incident in the school cafeteria. Andrew is just a third grader and like an overwhelming number of children today, he has Asperger's Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder sometimes called High Functioning Autism. According to the Surgeon General, Autism is the most common of the pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs) and is characterized by severely compromised ability to engage in, and by a lack of interest in, social interactions. These types of disorders come in many names and labels, all of them with their own defining characteristics yet most of them presenting similar challenges and the need for a plethora of therapies. Similar disorders include ADD, ADHD and Sensory Integration Disorder.

According to the Autism Society of America, its prevalence rate now places it as the third most common developmental disability -- more common than Down's syndrome. Autism Spectrum Disorder occurs in about 1 of every 500 births, four times more often in boys than girls and knows no racial, ethnic, social or geographical boundaries.

In Andrew's case, he looks and often appears like any typical 8-year-old boy. His challenge with language and social delays are often misinterpreted as disruptive behavior by those around him, which only adds to his daily struggles. As hard as he tries, the subtle social cues that come instinctively to most children elude him. Making friends is what he desires most and yet is the most difficult skill for him to learn. The confusing daily interactions can often lead to frustration and outbursts. For kids with Asperger's Syndrome, they must learn social skills much in the same way as we would learn to play the piano. Therapies may include teaching facial expressions and social cues to help them navigate the world around them.

As Andrew’s mom unravels the information about what happened that day she discovers that he has been in a social situation that is over his head. Just one day earlier Andrew shut his finger in the car door. His middle finger was black, blue and painful. During lunch Andrew showed his middle finger to the boy next to him. The much more socially savvy group of boys immediately laughed interpreting this innocent gesture as an inappropriate sign. The more they laughed, the more Andrew would repeat the action. To Andrew this was great; kids were enjoying his company and interacting with him. So when the cafeteria monitor sent him to the principal’s office he was completely confused as he was accused of doing something he didn’t understand. Incidents like this are common place for kids with Asperger’s Syndrome and other related disorders. Coping with the daily frustration, confusion and constant mediation can be an emotionally draining experience for the kids and their parents.

In Brevard, parents, families, teachers and professionals have joined together to provide support, resources and share stories. The group is called Brevard Families of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders or BFOCASD (pronounced be-focused). The group holds monthly meetings with speakers on topics related to Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Just last October BFOCASD produced their first conference which provided speakers and resources on ASD to attendees. More than just a great resource BFOCASD is a place that feels like family to its members.

When Judith Mammay found BFOCASD she had just recently learned her grandson had ASD. As a special education teacher in New Hampshire Judith had worked with children like her grandson. Just before moving to Melbourne Judith completed writing a children’s book, Knowing Joseph, about a boy who struggled with the fact that his younger brother had autism, his need to be perfect because of it, and his problems with the bullies because of his brother. Judith felt she could benefit from such a group, and maybe be of benefit to others because of her experience and writing. “At BFOCASD I found all I was looking for. I met other families who were having the same struggles and successes as my son and daughter-in-law were having with Matthew. I learned about local resources in Florida and I was able to gain helpful feedback on my book, which turned out to be a good resource for some of the families who read it.”

For more information visit , call Cari Wheat at 321-727-1028 or visit BFOCASD at the Healthy Living Expo on Saturday, March 4th at the Florida Tech Clemente Center. A raffle will be held for a 4 day/3night cruise for 2. Tickets start at just $5 and all proceeds go to BFOCASD and Wuesthoff Brevard Hospice. Winners will be announced at the event. For more information on the expo visit or call 321-777-6433.

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