Autism Society Has Programs, Support ; Run/walk and Fair Raise Funds to Help Those of All Ages

By Nannini, Loni | AZ Daily Star, March 15, 2016 | Go to article overview

Autism Society Has Programs, Support ; Run/walk and Fair Raise Funds to Help Those of All Ages


Nannini, Loni, AZ Daily Star


When Briana Seward's son, Sebastian, was diagnosed with autism in 2014, she gave herself 24 hours to process her emotions. Then she mobilized for action.

"I thought, 'I have to save my son. I have to figure out what this is and come up with a plan,'" she said.

Seward is not alone. Incidence of autism in Arizona is higher than the national average; it occurs in one of every 64 children as compared to one in 68 nationwide, as detailed in a 2014 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Defined as a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person's ability to communicate and interact with others, autism can be challenging to diagnose.

Seward said Sebastian was diagnosed at age 3 after meeting three criteria: difficulty with social interaction, language delay and sensory sensitivity.

"It was like he was sensitive to the world, and as he was growing the world started becoming a bigger, scarier place. If we were in a public place like a mall or museum or airport, he would go down and hug the floor and just try to shut the world off because it was too loud," Seward said.

Seward learned that treatment centered around early intervention with applied behavioral analysis and other therapies including speech and occupational. She also enrolled Sebastian in Lamb's Gate Christian School, an inclusion preschool. Other key factors in her treatment plan are integrative medicine, diet, the love of family and friends, and community support, which Seward found when she connected with the Autism Society of Southern Arizona.

"I felt the need in my soul to tap into community, and the Autism Society provided that for us. I ran into people from high school who had kids with autism, and it just felt like we were home. We were in an environment that knew us and understood our battles and our hearts. ... it is the warmest, kindest, most wonderful network," said Seward.

Support is a cornerstone of the Autism Society , which seeks to be the leading voice and resource for the autism community in education, advocacy, research and services.

"Autism affects everyone, and that is a driving point. It not only affects the person with the diagnosis, but it affects their parents and family members and classmates and peers. If you are an employer, it affects you because you there is a good chance an employee or maybe one of their children will have autism. The more we bring about awareness, the more accepting people will be and the better services these families will receive," said Nicole Glasner, executive director of the organization.

The organization offers a variety of educational opportunities, including a website with information and other resources, a lending library and numerous workshops and classes. It provides more than a dozen programs and services .

"What is great about the Autism Society is that whatever stage someone is in, there is a program for you," said Seward.

Glasner said programs for young children continue to expand and there has also been significant growth in programs for teens and adults in order to meet the need in the community.

"We want to get behaviors in place when children are young whenever possible, but we have adult programs for those who slipped through the cracks. …

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