An interview with UW-La Crosse professor, Jennifer Butler-Modaff revealed insights into the support community in the La Crosse area for families dealing with a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The most recent statistic published by Autism Speaks states that 1 in 88 children will be diagnosed with ASD, making this one of the most prevalent disorders in America. With this in mind, one would think the support and assistance that these families need would be readily available and easy to access, but Jennifer revealed that this was not the case. The programs are available in the community, but finding them is a challenge. When asked about coming to new communities and finding the right resources Jennifer said “When we first moved here, before we were ever physically here, I started emailing. Trying to find where the community support was, what programs were available, and I got nothing.” She went on to talk about the fact that even when a new program was discovered, the information about that program and the process for getting involved was confusing. This is not to say that there are no good programs available in the La Crosse area. Jennifer sang the praises of many programs including a peer mentoring program, occupational therapy, and motor skills workshops through UWL that her child participates in. She also talked about the YMCA as a valuable resource, and a community that goes the extra mile and puts in effort above and beyond what is required to make a program fitting for any child. Some programs are tailored more specifically for adults, such as therapy and rehab through the hospital or Chileda. As a child with autism grows, their needs change and so the therapy they get and the programs they are involved in need to change as well. This poses more challenges for anyone in this community needing assistance. A certain therapy that works for your child this year may be virtually useless in the next, and something that is perfect for you and your family may not be helpful at all to another family dealing with autism. The incredible diverse and individual nature of Autism Spectrum Disorder as it affects each person poses ever changing challenges to any organization trying to offer assistance. Struggling to find a suitable program each time your child outgrows one is an added stressor that these families don’t need. A more complete and concise list should be a goal for the La Crosse community. Support Autism Awareness, Research, and the families affected by getting involved. Here are some useful links to help you take the first steps: http://www.cadenstale.com/, www.autismspeaks.org, http://www.laxautism.org/, http://www.uwlax.edu/sah/ess/sape/html/spp.htm
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