Discussion scheduled as part of Autism Awareness Month

On April 3, 2014, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

autism_webBy Jeremy F. van der Heiden

April is National Autism Awareness Month in the United States, and officials and advocacy groups often work hard to get local communities involved in the conversation to create a more widespread understanding of the disorder. The Autism Society has recognized April as the month to raise awareness since the 1970s, and the event has become more popular and well understood in the past several years.

As is the case with many disorders, awareness is viewed as one of the more important and powerful weapons in the fight to help those affected as quickly as possible. The Somerville Public Schools Special Education Advisory Council has helped to coordinate and arrange a discussion at the Kennedy School Library from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 7, during which the public is welcome to attend and get involved.

The discussion, titled “Managing Time and Energy with Children on the Autism Spectrum,” will include guided conversation relating back to home schedules and routines, including leisure time activities, for both children who have been diagnosed with ASD and their families.

Mary DiGuardia, BCBA, assistant director of special education for Somerville Public Schools, proposed the discussion, and she explained that these specific topics are critically important for the average family who has a child with ASD.

“When special education teams responsible for students with autism find that the student is experiencing challenges at home, like following a daily routine or having a method of communicating with their families, a home training service is often recommended,” DiGuardia explained. “The home trainer trains the parent in the home about how to create a home schedule and routine that will help the student and the family.”

She went on to add that conversations with the home trainers used in Somerville revealed that some of the strategies used in these situations might be useful for many students, which eventually led to the proposal for the discussion at the Kennedy School library.

Special Education Parent Advisory Council Coordinator Debra Higgins, who also helped to organize the event, asserted that all types of families are welcome and encouraged to participate.

“I think this workshop would be great for all,” she said. “We could all use some tips with helping our children with study time, organizational skills and free time. I could use the help, too.”

Home trainers Kristen Hough and Mackenzie Poulos will be moderating the discussion April 7, as both have specialized skills from working closely with children who have ASD in the Somerville area. Parents who are interested in learning more about ASD, as well as how to best manage their time and that of their children when the disorder is present, will be able to garner a wealth of knowledge from these experienced professionals.

“Many of the challenges that students with autism and their families experience are common to many of those with the disability,” DiGuardia added. “We hope that, through offering a discussion, families who are not asking the questions but are having the same problems at home can learn some effective strategies for enriching their child’s functioning at home.”

She continued to say that caregivers have a plenty of information to share, and one of the objectives of the night is to spread some of the successes specialists have had with students in the home and community. Additionally, DiGuardia noted that parents are urged to bring their questions to the event, and that the hope is to continue the conversation in future “Autism Nights” to be held in Somerville.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly one in every 68 children has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Although ASD is more commonly diagnosed in boys than girls, it is reported to occur in all types of racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups.

Beyond ASD, the CDC estimated that roughly one in every six children in the United States had a developmental disability during a study from 2006 to 2008. However, the average child with ASD was not diagnosed until after his or her fourth birthday, despite the fact that most parents first reported recognizing certain abnormalities when their child was as young as 6 months.

The CDC further estimated that the cost of ASD is significantly higher for families than when the disorder is not prevalent. Average medical expenditures were found to be roughly 4.1 to 6.2 times greater for children with ASD than those without. Families were found to spend an estimated $17,000 more per year for a child who has been diagnosed.

As more information regarding ASD continues to be revealed through extensive research, parents and other family members have myriad support structures to take advantage of today.

Residents who would like to participate in the discussion at the Kennedy School library are welcome to do so. More information on ASD, as well as Autism Awareness Month, can be found through the Autism Society.


16 Responses to “Discussion scheduled as part of Autism Awareness Month”

  1. cambridgeyuppie says:

    “CDC estimated that roughly one in every six children in the United States had a developmental disability during a study from 2006 to 2008. ”

    Righto! Of course, big pharma and a lot of bogus “treatment” programs have nothing to do with overdiagnosing our kids and everybody else in society… It’s obvious folks, use your brain: The way these companies would like things to be is the entire population buying pills for the rest of their life to treat one of the BS conditions they have been diagnosed with.

  2. You says:

    Cambridgeyuppie, I think you may be confusing autism and ADHD. I have some friends whose children are diagnosed autistic. They are different then the average child and require different types of care. They are not being medicated, there therapy is a very intensive form of teaching and engagement. ADHD on the other hand, I may be more willing to concede to your line of thought.

    If you are curious about ASD, talk to a teacher, I think you will find that many have experience working with children with at least mild forms of autism and others with sever cases.

    The part about this that scares me is that the rate of increase. I do not know if it is growing awareness, a need to apply a label to children who are a little different or a true epidemic.

  3. cambridgeyuppie says:

    “You”, I think you are the confused one! ADHD IS a developmental disability. And so is ASD…


  4. learn B4 speaking says:

    as usual, CambYup is off the tracks. Very few developmental disabilities use any medication. How many DD’s can you name? ..without Wikipedia. Autism doesn’t involve medication of any kind. as described in the previous post. ignorance like yours continues myths that this is a phony disorder that can be fixed with discipline or some exercise. You should really limit your comments to things you are knowledgeable about. mmm…..what would that be?

  5. Pixie Pocahontas says:

    I’ve always wondered what causes autism. Are they any closer to finding out? Is it true that it can be a reaction to vaccinations? There seem to be too many children effected. It would not surprise me to be linked to some drug or toxic compound the child was exposed to early on life.

  6. Pixie Pocahontas says:

    There has been a rising debate of whether or not vaccines are the culprit. Of course we can understand why it would not be found in the latest edition of the medical journal. Parents wouldn’t allow vaccinations and the other problem would be how do you prevent childhood diseases if you don’t vaccinate? Well after the recalls on prescriptions and flu shots, why shouldn’t we question pharma when even if their products cause premature death, the best the courts can do is fine them what equates to a child’s piggy bank. Not good enough- they are just like predatory banking- reaping profits at warp speed while stealing lives from the taxpayers. No surprise this article reveals the same pharma once again, who is always in trouble. Don’t expect mainstream media to tell you, they get paid by the same corp violators who should be on breaking news headlines with talking heads and front page news every day of the week until reform is implemented.


  7. vaccine hoax says:

    catch up, Pixie, the whole vaccine thing was false. it was all based on research by Dr. Wakefield, who finally admitted to falsifying everything. I don’t know why. as the article states, knowing the symptoms, families are recognizing this as early as 6 months, well before any vaccines. there has to be a reason for the explosion in numbers, probably environmental like most of our other woes.

  8. matt c says:

    Pixi – for a moment take off the tin-foil hat and read about how many lives have been saved because of vaccines. One of the single greatest achievements, bigger than reaching the moon was the end of polio. Ignorant, uninformed speculation about if there is a link between vaccines and ANY disease have never been proven. for every one pointing to a link there are ten against. Even autism awareness groups like autism speaks (the group i contribute to) have formally come out against such ideas.

  9. Pixie Pocahontas says:

    I won’t take a flu vaccine because I’ve stopped believing in pharmaceuticals. Why do you think people who study science avoid so many harmful chemicals which are in our foods? Look at the food and environmental allergy epidemic in millions, even our animals. Bernie Sanders has been warning us of the corporation which has genetically engineered our plants causing these problems we never had years ago. I have a nephew who suffers from a form of autism. He didn’t begin displaying symptoms until he was about 5 years old. His father worked as an ICU supervisor at a major Boston Hospital. He did believe his son was exposed to something chemically related which caused autism.

    What about cures for cancer? Do you realize what would happen if they cured millions? Told to me by a scientist in the field. The industry would go bust. A client with cancer told my former boss that his new doctor who cured a local pol, said he would treat him but only if he provided him with 50k for research.

    We don’t know what they put in our drugs. The industry is driven by profits. The good doctors and other professionals are few and far. Question everything.

  10. cambridgeyuppie says:

    There is no link between vaccination and autism, folks. Dr. Wakefield should be thrown in jail for life, and we are already seeing the consequences of parents not vaccinating their kids: miniepidemics of infectious diseases that we thought had disappeared.

  11. cambridgeyuppie says:

    Pixie, so, when you go to your dentist for a root canal, no local anesthetic for you? OK, bless you heart. Also, no alcohol at all for you?
    There is no such things a “CANCER”. There are thousands of different variants that respond to different treatments and behave in different ways. There has been progress in curing certain cancers but not so much others. Why don’t you ask you beloved Koch brothers to donate more money to cancer research instead of pennies?

  12. Pixie Pocahontas says:

    matt c,

    Polio was cured in what century? I’m talking about 2014 and the past 20 years. The Prozac nation is not the answer. I’ve just explained my own personal experiences as someone who supported medical staff for over 8 years in the 90’s, also managed several complicated healthcare problems of family members. I understand the need for medicine, but junk medicine does not fly with me. I also studied psychology and doctors teaching admit it is not a perfected science, most is experimental. It’s a far more lucrative venture to keep making junk medicine. People are treated, not cured. Penicillin was a cure.

    When I read or experience something I am unsure is true, I take several or more sources then draw my own conclusions.

    Some employers are including Autism coverage for children of parents who work for the company. One claim is the rate is higher among women of childbearing years between 35-45. Yet, studies remain inconclusive.

    Drawing from my own experience and what I learned from family members trapped in the pharma cycle– drugs can help in one area, but destroy another. One family member started with 3 pills for the same condition. A few years later, new meds replaced former. Two new illnesses arrived- high blood pressure and diabetes for which new drugs were later pulled off the market due to lawsuits which revealed cause of illness which were not present at the start of prescriptions.

    My nephew who has autism was first diagnosed with depression. He tried to commit suicide at the age of 9. Turned out, he had Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism. His doctor placed him on anti-depressants, and each year, changed the medication because it wasn’t helping his symptoms.

    As much as the medical profession and pharma keep applauding themselves for finding so called cures and remedies, they have a long way to go.

    We also have a pet that suffers from a skin disorder. Three vets later, we put her on an over the counter allergy med. Two of the three vets were looking for research money, fees ranging from $300-700 a visit. I challenged their expertise to our own local practitioner who’s treatment was less costly and hopefully will help so our pet won’t be scratching till the skin falls off.

    My point once again- we live in a new unknown world with pharma and specialists. There are many unanswered questions about new drugs and rising epidemic of related conditions unknown to us years before. Why now?

    Everything between birth control, meds for existing conditions and antidepressants are known to cause birth defects. Remember DDT? You solve one problem and cause another. That’s also how we nearly lost our Osprey population.

    By law, FDA, must disclose serious dangers of new drugs. The medical professional has an ethical responsibility by oath to care for patients. As far as I know it says nothing about holding pharmaceuticals to much higher standards.

  13. Hey yup,

    I do a great deal of reading on subjects of interest. This happens to be one of them since.

    I am a direct descendent of a people who were raised in a remote region of N.Italy (remember the story of their special gene) who continue to grow their own produce, drink from natural springs from the mountain, pick mushrooms and chestnuts, from the forest. They live healthy lives where there is far less pollution, absent of toxic contaminants and less dependence on prescribed medications.

    I’ve visited a total of 4 times, twice within the last 5 years. Mom would pick dandelions every summer in our backyard and insist they were a natural detoxification of the body. Recently, I’ve developed some joint pain and was advised to take a teaspoon of Magnesium by a relative in Italy. It worked–the pain has been greatly reduced. I buy most of my teas and herbal remedies at Cambridge Naturals in Porter Square.

    Of course I get Novacaine for filings, don’t be a dope. If I develop a heart condition at the age of 75, I’ll continue to do the research and see what the potential side effects are–I don’t want to live forever. If you have a strong spiritual believe in nature, you realize that it’s important to allow life to run it’s natural course for which it was meant to be.

    We are now overwhelmed by so many drugs and additives which promise us false expectations. Did we really need to invent Viagra? Wouldn’t it be better to invest the money to cure Diabetes and Heart Disease? Nurses I once worked complained that if a man could become pregnant, the pill would have been invented at the turn of the century. There are a great deal of unanswered questions by the medical profession that continue to beg for answers.

    Years ago, Sierra Magazine, wrote that Bush appointed heads of the chemical corporations to study and police causes of carcinogens.

    I’m sorry, but isn’t that like the fox guarding the hen house?

    How about an independent study conducted by various scientists around the globe who are not influenced by pharma$ and conflict of interest? Allow their findings to be reported by a non-corporate sponsored media outlet, like Democracy Now and tell the people the truth. What are they worried -Potential lawsuits?

    One question I would ask –“What chemical compounds were used in our vaccinations during the 60’s – 80’s which are not being used now”?

    List reasons for introducing new products. Do we even know if they are telling us everything there is to know about what could potentially cause autism? For instance, if you wiki autism–it states that the father’s age is a factor, more so than the mother who is carrying the fetus.

    What about Rick Perry’s brainstorm to inoculate pre-teen girls against HPV–when it was determined that it’s transmitted by males?

    As the debate continues over the causes of autism–


  14. vaccine hoax says:

    don’t want to get further into this discussion, but Pixie, nothing about Autism suggests a suicide risk. so the dr. was not off the wall on that one.

  15. Pixie Pocahontas says:


    That is exactly my point. How many other children, including my nephew has been misdiagnosed? Even having a medical professional as a dad did not provide an advantage towards proper diagnosis. The debate obviously continues in DC without any advances towards viable treatment for millions of children. My nephew’s dad died of a sudden heart attack five years ago at the age of 50. He and his wife did everything in their power to get their son the best care and support. Until you walk in their shoes do you understand the heartbreak and frustration of not being able to help your child. It’s hard work, a labor of love for which I give parents so much credit. I only wish our govt. would insist on transparency by pharma and violators should be forced to close up shop. Just as we have bad bankers we also have irresponsible pharma and medical personnel who are more concerned with funding than a drug that works.

  16. vaccine hoax says:

    Pixie-it’s just impossible to follow you. your posts are way too long, as has been pointed out several times. you’re all over the map with the lengthy stories, and apparently have been harmed by every possible thing on the planet regarding pets, family, etc. it’s exhausting, take a break

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