CLEVELAND, Ohio – National Autism Awareness Month kicks off in just a few days, and FOX 8 will be featuring stories about autism, treatments being offered and how it impacts local families.
Autism now affects 1 in 68 children. In fact, it’s one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders in the United States. For some families, it can be a hard diagnosis to deal with, but Barbara Fox said it doesn’t have to be.
She said it’s all about finding the right help.
"When he was six months old, he started having seizures; so at that point, we knew something was off and we were going to be on a different kind of path,” recalled Fox.
Her son, Kevin, was diagnosed with autism as a little boy and has been living with it ever since.
She said she was fortunate to be directed to Cleveland Clinic Children’s Center for Autism.
When he started going to school there, he wasn’t able to communicate.
That’s no longer the case though. The 13-year-old is now able to do sign language and use a speech generator on his iPad.
"So he has a page of foods on there, wants and needs, he can communicate personal information like his phone number and address,” explains Carla Rossi.
She’s his teacher. She said when he’s in class, they’ll focus on life skills and vocational tasks.
One of his responsibilities is to collect the recycling bins.
"With the proper teaching and help, our kids can accomplish anything,” she said proudly.
Pauline Smith said she couldn’t agree more. The behavioral therapist has known Kevin since he was five.
"If you do have children with a diagnosis, don't put limitations on what they can and cannot do because you never know. The kids that we have here surprise us every day,” she said.
Fox said she can think of a few moments that surprised her. One of the biggest, when Kevin learned how to ride a bike. She said it was incredible.
"I thought he could use it and I didn't know how it would go, but I bought it and you should have seen him riding around the block on that bike Christmas morning,” Fox said.
She said none of this would’ve been possible without the Cleveland Clinic. She credits them for his success.
"We're so thankful. I mean every day I'm just thankful that Kevin is not in the hospital, that he's not in the emergency room, that his heart is beating and that he's alive,” she said.
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In honor of National Autism Awareness month, Panera Bread will be supporting Cleveland Clinic Children’s Center for Autism by hosting the “Pieces of Hope for Autism” campaign. On Monday, April 13 – Sunday, April 19, the 43 Northeast Ohio bakery-cafés will bake a specialty puzzle piece shortbread cookie and 100% of proceeds from each cookie sold will be donated to Cleveland Clinic Children’s Center for Autism.