KATY MAGAZINE I MARCH 2019
By Wendy Teng
In the Katy community, there are many parents striving to understand autism and find help and support. This guide will help you navigate some of the Autism support resources in Katy.
What is Autism?
Autism, also known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a developmental disorder that starts at a young age and lasts for an entire lifetime. Individuals with ASD experience difficulties in communication and interactions with others. It can usually be diagnosed by two years of age.
Autism Stats in Katy
According to Cynthia Reece, President of nonprofit organization, Katy Autism Support and mother of a child with ASD, 1 in 42 students have an autism education label and are receiving special education services in Katy ISD.
Her breakdown is as follows: There are 1,810 students whom has the autism educational label in Katy ISD. Divide that by the number of students enrolled in the 2017-2018 school year, which is 75,321 students. That is approximately 1 in 41.61— according to the most current data from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and the state's Public Education Information Management System (PEIMS).
Cynthia also says there are many more children with autism not enrolled in Katy ISD because they are either younger than three, attending private school, enrolled full time at an applied behavior analysis clinic or in-home program, home schooled, or have aged out of the public-school system.
General Findings on Autism
In a 2014 study on 8 years olds, about 1 in 59 children in the United States were diagnosed with autism. The disorder is four times more common among boys than girls. Cases of autism have been found in all ethnic, socioeconomic, and racial groups. However, the gender of a child and the age of the parents may affect the development of autism.
Who's at Highest Risk?
There is a higher risk of developing autism for a child born to parents with maternal age greater than 35 years of age and paternal ages greater than 40 years old. The risk of ASD increases as the age increases for both maternal and paternal parents. Interestingly, the study also found that there is also an inverse correlation between the risk of ASD and birth order. The risk of ASD seems to decrease with birth order (CDC, 2018).
Screening for ASD
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be screened by their pediatricians for ASD at 18 months of age. "The earlier it gets diagnosed, the earlier parents can start medical treatments and therapy," Cynthia says. My own child was diagnosed at 4 years of age, which in my opinion is very late and resulted in a missed opportunity for earlier intervention.” More than half of school-aged kids were age 5 or older when they were first diagnosed with ASD, the study showed. Less than 20% were diagnosed by age 2.
The symptoms for ASD varies with every individual, but the main symptoms often involve communication and behavioral traits. Some individuals with ASD face difficulties with non-verbal and speech communication primarily, but here are a list of symptoms for parents to watch for.
Not making eye contact
Facial expressions that don't match words
Repetitive actions or speech
Responding slowly or not at all
Responds slowly to people calling their name
Strong fixations on certain things
Sensitivity to light, noise or temperature
Upset by changes in routine
Difficulties for Parents
Parents and or family members that care for a child or adolescent with ASD often face high expenditures for behavioral therapy and medical care. The annual average costs for a family to take care of a child or adolescent with ASD were $4100 to $6200 more than a child without ASD. It is approximately 4 to 6 times more to care for a child or adolescent with ASD. Dr. Lisa Graham Garza, the founder of Katy's Autism Rescue Angels organization, says there is so much that can be done to help improve quality of life, but the costs are all out of pocket for families. Lisa is also the mother of a child with ASD and understands the struggles first hand. "Autism is a lifelong condition and many times the person will outlive their parents or caregivers and some will need to be put in a group home environment. It is heartbreaking and expensive.”
Evaluation and Treatment
Parents with autistic children also face difficulties in getting the necessary evaluation and therapy services for their children. The waiting list can be as long as several months, 6 months, or even up to a year. Cynthia says, “There are long waits for services to begin. Many clinics in Katy have waiting lists for services like occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, applied behavior analysis (ABA).”
Childcare and Other Services
For working parents, finding and selecting a good daycare is an important decision. A good childcare service that has the knowledge and experience to care for children with ASD may be rare. Some quality daycare centers that accept children with autism may have limited spots, while others choose not to provide care for autistic children. Cynthia had a position with a Fortune 500 Company and had to leave her position to care for her child full-time. "It became impossible to find childcare during school holidays, during winter, spring, summer breaks, early school dismissals, and child sick days.”
Schools can also be difficult for autistic children. If schools and teachers do not have the capability and understanding to educate a child with autism, the child will not be comfortable in the school environment, and he or she will not be able to develop a good learning foundation. Parents may need to work with school districts and teachers to seek necessary improvements. Every child with ASD has different needs making it even more challenging for educators.
The difficulties do not stop for parents as the child grows older. As the child ages, becomes adolescents, and turn into adults, resources are more limited at each stage. “What will happen to our kids with autism when they age out of the public-school system? There are few adult options for people with autism in Katy. There are too few post-secondary education opportunities and only a few day habilitation centers and not enough job training and vocational programs for adults with autism. There are more adult opportunities in Houston 20-25 miles away and are expensive private pay options,” said Cynthia.
Therapies and medical care are some treatments for children with autism. However, the child may experience other illnesses or conditions that should be treated at the same time. These illnesses or conditions may also contribute and or affect the child’s autism. If all issues are treated, the child will show improvements, but it will take time and patience. “As you heal the child's body, all the therapy and educational services will really be able to make a difference,” says Laura Graham Garza. “My observation is that pediatricians don’t have enough training to provide overall care for children with autism. Many treat autism strictly as a behavioral condition and prescribe antipsychotics to calm kids down. Pediatric Neurologist Dr. Richard Frye who used to practice in Houston says, “Autism is not simply a matter of a misfiring or tangled brain.
It is a systemic condition, affecting the immune system, the metabolic system and the gut.” Dr. Frye treats the comorbid conditions seen in people with autism. The underlying point is, when tests are performed and the root cause can be discovered, then treated, people with autism get better. When they get better and feel better, their behavior and learning improve,” Cynthia said.
It is important to visit a pediatrician to check on a child’s development and get screened for autism if a child shows any symptoms. A child with ASD may be able to improve on behavior and communication if he or she gets diagnosed and start treatments at age 2 or earlier. “Take some time to absorb your child’s autism diagnosis, but not too much time. Early intervention is key to improvement and progress.
Research interventions, therapies, treatments, educational options, attend local support group meetings, attend parent training's, network with other families and parents need to take care of their own health care needs and to spend quality time with their other children,” advises Cynthia. It is also important for the parents to not neglect their other kids.
“There is so much that can be done to help improve the quality of life of a person with autism. It is a heartbreaking and very stressful experience. Caregivers need a lot of support. Finding a good support group of parents who understands and can be there for you can really make a difference, “Laura says. Parents with ASD children can look at various available ASD resources to get support and learn more about ASD.
Resources for Parents of Autistic Children
Katy Autism Support Discussion Group
Meetings are quarterly at St. Peter’s UMC (meets 3rd Tuesday in January, April, August & October). They also have a Katy Autism Support Facebook Group.
Special Needs Parent Support Group
Meets monthly at Kingsland Baptist Church, Wednesday Night, 6:00 - 7:30 PM, Room C237
Special Needs Parenting Support Group
Whitney Peper; Family Events Coordinator St. Peter’s UMC; Email email@example.com.
Autism Rescue Angels
A non-profit that provides financial assistance to autism families in the Houston area for medical, therapeutic or respite needs of teenagers 15 years or older.
Hope for Three
Providing support to families living with autism spectrum disorder.
Inclusive Educational Services
Provides tutoring, social skills teaching, respite, and other services for children with ASD.
MORE LOCAL RESOURCES
Hair Salons, Sports and other resources for Autistic families.
Childcare and Respite
ABA Therapy Resources
Adults with Autism Resources
Family to Family Network
local non-profit disability advocacy organization. They provide information on the various systems, referrals to community resources, training events on various disability topics in the office, community and at an annual conference, a website devoted to providing accurate & consistent information on the special education process, a monthly email newsletter of family & community activities, a Guided Transition program, as well as a Leadership & Advocacy training program; families and individuals with disabilities have an opportunity to network and learn from one another.
STATE AND NATIONAL RESOURCES
Easter Seals of Greater Houston
Navigate Texas Life
Parent Companion First Five Years
Disability Rights Texas, Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 2018 Manual—A Guide for Parents and Students About Special Education Services in Texas:
Parent’s Guide to ARD Process:
Special Education Rules & Regulations Legal:
Texas Project First
Texas Special Education Information Center
The Arc of Greater Houston
Thank you to Katy Autism Support and Autism Rescue Angles for providing information and resources for this story.
Do you have any Katy resources you would like to add? Email Editor@KatyMagazine.com
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