February 9, 2007
New information released by the Center for Disease Control shows that nearly one in every one hundred and fifty US children has autism.
These new numbers are startling to many, considering the fact that just ten years ago this country didn't know that much about this disease.
Schools like the Virginia Institute of Autism are helping to raise awareness and assist this population of special needs children.
Six-year-old Camille has been a student at VIA for the past four years.
“I had this little girl who was absolutely adorable. But, I couldn't interact with her; she couldn't tell me anything about her life. She couldn't tell me if she was hot or cold, if she was hungry, or even what she wanted to eat,” said Lee Anne Battiston, Camille’s mother.
Her mother says the family was lucky and caught Camille’s symptoms before her second birthday; allowing her to get the right kind of help at an early stage of her life.
“Three years later, now she can absolutely tell me what she wants. She can ask me to sit down and play a board game with her. She can actually look me in the eye and want to interact. The best thing right now is she’s learning to read. Not only does she want to sit on my lap and have me read a book to her, but she wants to read it back to me, and that is just an immeasurable gift,” said Battiston.
Much of Camille’s success story can be attributed to the hard-working staff of the VIA.
“We teach skills by breaking them down into very specific parts, and using the re-enforcement to help the children gain skills or at the same time maybe reduce behaviors that are challenging or less desirable,” said Michael McKee, executive director of the VIA.
Although awareness of this issue is getting better, McKee says the problem isn't going away.
“The number of school children diagnosed with autism has been doubling every four years, so we can expect probably if the current rates play out, to see twice the number in four years as we have today. So, this really is a significant problem,” said McKee.
There is much speculation into what exactly is causing autism cases to be more prevalent around the country.
But, what experts do know that early detection and intervention is the most effective means of treatment.