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Mother urges Autism awareness
BEAUMONT - by Lauren Huet
Doctors are diagnosing more children than ever before with Autism. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in 68 children has Autism. April 30th is the final day of Autism Awareness Month, and one mother says it should last year round.
Viji Senthilkumar's son is 15 years old. "My son is somebody who loves his iPad," said Senthilkumar.
"We always joke that's his best friend. He loves music, he loves walking, he likes dogs. He loves horses."
He was diagnosed 12 years ago with Autism, on the more severe side of the spectrum.
"I think people don't realize that kids with Autism, they're human, they love things just like you and me," said Senthilkumar. "And realize that just because you don't understand doesn't mean you shouldn't keep trying to interact with them."
Each day for about three and a half years, Senthilkumar takes her son to the Shorkey Center in Beaumont. He studies math, reading, writing, health, gym, and learns social skills. When he was diagnosed in 2002, she didn't know what to do.
"There was nothing in the media, nothing in the newspapers, nobody knew what Autism was. I definitely see a big change now than then. Now you see the signs everywhere saying these are the symptoms you look for and people pushing for early intervention," said Senthilkumar.
The Shorkey Center offers physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and social programs for people ages three to 21 with Autism. It also has a pre-school. The Executive Director, Gay Jenkins, says Autism Awareness has come a long way.
"Very much so, and that's why we know that there's a spectrum of Autism. You see children with severe behavior issues, you see children at the other end of the spectrum that are extremely intelligent," said Jenkins.
Both Jenkins and Senthilkumar say there's still a need for more awareness.
"Society in general doesn't understand. I mean I still get dirty looks when I go to the grocery store. When my kid was smaller we would have the verbal meltdowns and screaming, and now that my kid is older he seems like he's an adult, and people just don't understand and I still get the dirty looks," said Senthilkumar.
"I think we've come a long long way with that issue, but I still think there are so many people who don't understand it," said Jenkins. "That's the need for the awareness, that sometimes [schools] still are using techniques that may not be as appropriate."
Senthilkumar hopes as awareness grows, more people will make an effort to include people with Autism.
"Don't ignore them just say, 'hi buddy, how are you doing?' And then you're still involving them in the world, and I think that is so important of society."
Symptoms of Autism include not making eye contact, difficulty interacting socially, and engaging in repetitive behaviors. For more information, click here.