Way off base

Published 1:23 pm Wednesday, July 30, 2008

By Staff
Conservative talk-show host Michael Savage set the Internet buzzing and attracted much media coverage last week after accusations that insensitive comments made on his talk-radio show about children with autism insulted families. Savage left disability advocates stunned and led AFLAC to pull advertising from his show after he suggested that autism is a consequence of lax parenting skills resulting in “bratty kids.”
Some advocates realize that tactless comments by high-profile talk-show personalities shock, but also serve by attracting attention to their shows and improving ratings. However, despite raised public awareness about autism in recent months including a long segment on CNN by Larry King, Savage’s unkind comments demonstrate the continued lack of understanding surrounding this often misunderstood disability and provide a valuable opportunity for families living with autism to obtain desperately needed reliable information.
Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disability. It is thought to be caused by a neurological condition that affects normal brain function especially in the areas of development and social interactions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2007), one in every 150 children is now diagnosed with autism. James E. Williams Jr., president and chief executive officer of Easter Seals, reflecting on World Autism Awareness Day stated: “There are a number of wonderful organizations researching and seeking a cause and cure for autism. There is an urgent need for increased funding and services — especially for adults with autism.”
Although autism is a lifelong disability, it is treatable. Patricia Wright, director of autism services at Easter Seals, states that “people living with autism — at any age — are capable of making significant progress through personalized interventions and therapy; and, can and do lead meaningful lives.” The National Research Council Report (2001) recommends that individuals with autism should be engaged in functional and appropriate activities for a minimum of 25 hours a week.
Developmental therapy is one way that people with autism are learning the skills and receiving the support they need to access their communities and live independent and productive lives. Developmental-therapy services support children and adults with autism as they strive to participate fully in their communities.
For children the focus of developmental therapy is on strengthening skills in the major developmental domains and may include training and activities in areas such as self-help, language and cognitive development and psychosocial skills. For adults, developmental therapy may include training in activities to strengthen appropriate developmental functioning in areas such as self-care, mobility, socialization, independent living and self-advocacy and rights. Developmental therapy may be provided either in an individual’s home or community. Ultimately, strengthening social skills enables people with disabilities to cultivate relationships thereby enhancing their community involvement.
Easter Seals UCP of North Carolina would be happy to talk with anyone about how her or she can help his or her loved one to maximize that loved one’s participation of living, learning and working in his or her community.