It’s the last day of April, and throughout the past month News Source 8’s Angela Christoforos has shared her own personal connection to Autism and the stories of local people affected by the diagnosis.
Through the series Angela has talked to doctors and local families affected by autism, and in the process she’s learned some of the widespread struggles that families face here in the County. Fortunately, outlets like the Aroostook Autism Support group are a great resource for parents, because sometimes the best resources are families who are going through the same thing…
“I have all kinds of questions like where to start what to do what not to do.”
Just some of many questions that run through a parent’s mind with a newly diagnosed autistic child.
TAMC’s Dr. Renee Fournier said, “There hasn’t been enough evidence and enough studies done to find out, is it a chemical imbalance in the brain, is it a wiring issue in the brain, is it something a lot more complicated is it a structural issue in the brain, is it genetics? We really don’t know.”
But one thing doctors know for sure, is that early intervention and support is critical. The Aroostook Autism Support group provides an avenue for parents to share their struggles and valuable information on advocating for their children.
“We have great therapists in the community for speech and OT and PT and they’re wonderful but they’re overwhelmed and I think just getting more therapists who are willing to see children, willing to see children with autism would be the first step,” said Fournier.
Despite the strides that have been made, there still exist a number of real challenges. There’s only 5 developmental pediatricians in the whole state, none of which are here in the County. There are programs for children in the County like developmental pre-school Circle of Learning, as well as Northern Maine General that offers one-on-one programs and outpatient therapy for autistic children under age 20.
Northern Maine General Children’s Day Habilitation Program Manager Tammy Michaud said, “We go into the home and we assess the child with the parents, the case manager, whoever is on that team and then we come up with the treatment plan goals and the child could range anywhere from 6 hours a week on up to 25.
But in order to qualify, the child must have a behavioral composite score of 70 or below on the vineland scale. And if the autistic child does qualify, those services don’t last forever. The transition into adulthood often leaves the autistic individual with little to no services.
“The wait list can last anywhere from 2 years to 3 years so when the child gets out of school at 18 till they come off that wait list they are pretty much in limbo,” said Michaud.
Parents are encouraged to put transitional plans into place before their child’s 17th birthday, because depending on where their child falls on the spectrum, securing services can be a struggle.
“It is that grey area of those kids who are verbal and functional but not without supervision and that’s where the biggest struggle comes in for these families,” said Fournier.
Although there are a lot of unanswered questions, the answer to dealing with Autism, is community awareness, understanding, and working on putting the puzzle together one piece at a time.
SERVICES:-Northern Maine General works with autistic children under age 20(www.nmgeneral.com for more info or call and ask for a program manager at 207-492-1036)
www.nmgeneral.com for more info or call and ask for a program manager at 207-492-1036
-Section 28 is a program for children 20 and under; includes: behavior modification, in home supports, outpatient therapy, family therapy, children’s case management, and IEPS (individual educational plan) at school
-Section 17 is a skills development program, children transition to this from section 28 by the age of 18
-Section 21 is residential placement if a child can no longer live with parents for whatever reason, when put on waivers they’re put at priority 3 unless in immediate danger
-Section 29 is Voc Rehab, job coach, day programs
-Central Aroostook Association provides a continuation of services for adults over age 20 with intellectual & developmental disabilities