I'm a parent of a child with autism.
My son used to have some severe sensory issues. He was non-verbal. We were unable to brush his hair. Brushing his teeth was a two-person job because his mouth was so sensitive. He rarely slept through the night. He was social, but his inability to communicate meant that making friends was difficult. He was prone to tantrums because he'd become increasingly frustrated due to his lack of communication skills.
My mother referred me to the Pennsylvania Autism Action Center. After an evaluation, Stephen was diagnosed with autism. While we waited for our insurance to kick in, the staff immediately enrolled him in speech and occupational therapy. Before the first month was over, Stephen was starting to speak. As soon as we were able to schedule the ABA services, Stephen's sensory issues became addressed.
He's been attending the autism center for two years now, and the difference is night and day. Stephen can now brush his hair and teeth with no issues. He dresses himself. He can communicate clearly, and tantrums are non-existent. He's developed friendships and now attends a normal Pre-K with the assistance of a member of the autism center staff. Each day he blossoms a bit more, and I'm confident he'll have a bright and successful future.
I'm expecting my second child, and the chances of this child also being autistic are heightened. I had no fear of what this would mean because of this institution. Sadly, the autism center is approaching bankruptcy. Many of the clients left to attend school and are doing so well, they no longer need the services. While this is wonderful, it's critical that the center remain open.
The dedicated staff form bonds with the children that are invaluable. They offer speech, occupational and sensory therapy that aren't found anywhere else in the area. There are currently 200 clients attending the center, 40 of which are young children. If the center goes under, these children and adolescents are left without vital services.
As well as autism services, the center also takes the children on field trips, offers teen mixers and day care services so that parents can have a few hours to themselves. They give parents the chance to connect with one another, and can refer us to outside services such as autism-friendly hair stylists and dentists for our children.
Parenting a special-needs child can be challenging, but with people as dedicated and passionate as this staff, it's been tremendously easier. They've helped my son to thrive and find his voice, and for me to find a way to better connect with him. I ask as a mother and a member of this community that you please donate or share this link. The loss of this place and of these wonderful people would be devastating to the many families who have come to rely on them.