An autism support group will soon be offering its services to Clay County residents.
The support group is being coordinated by Pam Miller and Denise Duncan. Miller is a nurse and mother to 4-year-old Gavin who has been diagnosed with autism. Duncan works on the special services team at Forest Park Elementary. Miller decided to spearhead a group in Brazil after attending an autism conference. The conference included a session beginning a support group.
Autism is defined as mental introversion in which the attention or interest is fastened upon the patient's own ego. The syndrome appears in childhood with symptoms of self-absorption, inaccessibility, aloneness, inability to relate, highly repetitive play and rage reactions upon interruption, predilection for rhythmical movements, and many language disturbances.
Autism is referred to as a spectrum disorder because symptoms of the disorder can present themselves in any combination with ranging levels of intensity. Some autism patients are able to be independent or partially independent while others may need live-in assistance throughout their lifetime.
Studies show that autism is a result of biological abnormalities in brain structure and function due to abnormally low blood flow to certain sections of the brain and a decreased number of certain brain cells. Characteristics of autism spectrum disorders include delay in speaking of first words and phrases, uneven skill development and impairments of social and communication functions. Patients may also have quirky behavioral characteristics such as restrictive interests, unusual preoccupation, compulsions and rituals, unusual sensory interest, hand and finger mannerisms, self-injury or special skills. If a daily routine is performed out of sequence, the patient will act as though they are in pain and sensory issues play a vital role in their daily routines.
By joining the support group, parents will benefit from knowing other people in the same situation, so they can learn to accept what their children do. Participants will also gain resources and compare notes on different therapies, treatments and activities that worked with their children. All of the extra knowledge obtained from group discussions will help relieve the added stress parents often experience when raising an autistic child.
The goal of the group is to keep discussions informal and fun as well as providing a break for parents. Group activities will also include family days, outings which will include the whole family.
"We accept Gavin for who he is. We think he has a lot to offer the world and he is a wonderful quirky little guy," Miller said.
Anyone interested in joining the support group should watch The Brazil Times for specific time and place or call Miller at 448-8434 for additional questions.