I have written about my views on autism many times in my blog. It has been a topic that has been near and dear to my heart since I discovered close to six years ago that my grandson Noah Jr. was on the autism spectrum. It also became apparent a couple years back that my granddaughter Cortney (Noah’s younger sister) who is now four is also on the spectrum.
Over the years I have learned a lot about autism and I have drawn my own conclusions about who is on the spectrum and why. I have also watched the mainstream medical community bumble about without enough answers for parents of kids on the spectrum. I have found this frustrating, but I realize that the spectrum still shrouds many of its mysteries. There is nothing black and white about the answers regarding autism. But there are some things that are more effective than others and there are a dedicated core of folks in the world focusing their time and efforts on learning more about autism and offering assistance to autistic individuals and their families.
Many of these folks have been driven to advocacy based on a desire to help a loved one. Often, it has been parents seeking help for their autistic child that have pushed for advances in this area. These parents quickly learned that they had to do all their own leg work – that the services or networks that they thought would be readily available were difficult to find or non-existent. And this is how the bulk of autism organizations and service networks have grown – by the blood, sweat, and tears of a parent seeking answers and help for their child.
So too is the story of Sandy Smith the President and Co-founder of the North Dakota Autism Center. Forum writer Angie Wieck recently did a write-up on Sandy and the Autism Center’s new up-and-coming facility in West Fargo. Through Sandy’s experience the article told the larger story of the grassroots nature of autism advocacy.
An excerpt from Wieck’s piece:
“Sandy Smith formed the North Dakota Autism Center from her kitchen table in 2006, not long after her young son, Tyler, was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.
Today, Smith will oversee a groundbreaking ceremony to mark construction of a new 6,700-square-foot home for the organization at 647 13th Ave. E. in West Fargo.
Smith was inspired to start the nonprofit when she had difficulty securing early intervention therapy for Tyler that was approved by her employer’s insurance program. Microsoft’s National Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield, based in Washington, agreed to pay 80 percent of the cost of 40 hours of applied behavioral analysis per week.
The policy required therapy to be provided by a licensed and board-certified behavioral analyst. Smith was unable to find someone with those qualifications, so she paid for Tyler’s treatment while continuing to search for an approved provider.
She eventually secured a qualified provider and established the ND Autism Center in order to share that and other autism-related resources and services.
The organization offers the following programs:
• AuSome Kids Day Program, which is a center-based child care program for preschool and schoolchildren that focuses on the unique needs of children with ASD and other related disabilities or behavioral problems.
• AuSome Kids Early Intervention Program, which is a personalized one-on-one behavioral therapy program supervised by a board-certified behavior analyst.
• Behavior services such as functional behavior assessments, behavior support and intervention plans that are provided in school and home settings, and developed and monitored by a board-certified behavior analyst.
Smith believes early intervention programs such as applied behavioral analysis are crucial for children upon diagnosis, hopefully by the age of 2.
She said the benefits of early intervention could include parents’ ability to remain in the workforce, a lower divorce rate, better lives for children with autism and easing the load for a school district.”
Here is the great news for all those parents who who will discover their children are on the spectrum in the future – Sandy and other strong advocates have now started to create the necessary network. These efforts have been labors of necessity and love and through them the paths of others are eased. God bless the Sandy Smiths of the world – they take the challenges they are handed and turn them into triumphs.
As someone who has had plenty to say about autism, I don’t want to miss this opportunity to put in my two cents on this front. So here it is – thank you Sandy Smith – what you are doing on behalf of those on the spectrum and their families is AuSome!
Day one thousand four hundred and seventeen of the new forty – obla di obla da