By Alun Delphine Mebe Mekamdem
I have a child who is diagnosed with autism. At first it was a very difficult and challenging situation in my family. I was wondering about the behavior of the child with the lack of support and understanding from some healthcare providers. Safety was the main concern because at 10 months old my son could jump off the table, climb on top of the refrigerator and jump from there. I was calling for help every day without any favorable answer. One day, I went to my doctor’s appointment with my son who was two and half year at the time and nonverbal. My primary care physician spoke to my son, and asked me a few questions about my child. My doctor gave me a number for Loudoun County public school’s child find. I called child find and scheduled an appointment for intake. After three assessment sessions, my child was diagnosed with autism, and he was found eligible for special education . Since then, I have learned to advocate for him and learn more in order to manage his medication and take good care of my loved one.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has a significant impact on the family dynamic. When my son was diagnosed with autism , it took a lot of consultation with different specialists such as psychologist, psychiatrist, neurologist and cardiologist. It also requires assessing his hearing and language. I remembered that my daughter sometimes missed school when we couldn’t find a babysitter to keep her.
The main focus of parents is on the child who is diagnosed with autism regardless of the number of the children you have. My daughter was only 6 years old when I had to provide 24 hours care to her younger brother. I helped my daughter with her homework occasionally. The parents explain to the family the reason why the child with autism needs more attention. Although some siblings actively engage in helping with their disabled brother or sister, they are hurt by the lack of attention from their parents. As a result, they end up with depression or anxiety and low self-esteem . The prevalence of children diagnosed with autism is low. However, there are many challenges associated in raising an autistic child. According to the CDC, the total annual costs for children with ASD in the United States in 2011 were about $11.5 billion – $60.9 billion (2011 US dollars). The economic burden is not only related to medical bills , but also to a loss of income because both parents will not be able to work full time jobs. There are also expenses that are related to the destruction of the equipment such as writing on the wall.
As treatment, the early intervention through special education has a better outcome. In my personal experience, the applied behavioral analysis (ABA) has helped a lot. They focus on the inappropriate behaviors and develop goals to decrease the recurrence of inappropriate behaviors. My son is 14 years old today, and I am very proud of him. We are able to attend Sunday services for 2 hours. He behaves well when we run errands. Yet there is still a lot to do since he is nonverbal. In fact, the ASD has caused me to spend less time with my daughter. Autism has caused financial loss in my family.
The Autism Society of Northern Virginia is an organization that works with families whose loved one is diagnosed with autism. This organization provides education, financial support, and refers families to support groups. It also provides financial support to affected families . The mission of this organization is to improve the lives of autistic individuals and their families (asnv.org) . I prefer this organization because it focuses on the well-being of the whole family. I would like to encourage anyone to donate money to the Autism society of Northern Virginia. Your donation will promote independence of an autistic individual to have a job. Your donation will also help to alleviate the financial burdens on the family of autistic child.
I am taking this opportunity to sound the alarm to increase the awareness of individuals about autism. I am reaching out to the government to provide childcare and financial assistance and counseling services to the family with an autistic child. I encourage people to learn about autism even if they don’t have a loved one affected by this condition. Moreover, treat everyone with respect and dignity. Raising an autistic child requires a community effort to understand and accept the one who is special and unique. I truly believe that the more people have knowledge about autism, the better it will help them to integrate into society.