Mail Tribune

Mail Tribune

Living Opportunities seeks support from the community to continue the vital work of autism behavior and communication specialists, and avert crises that often tear families apart and end in a costly out-of-home placement for the child.

An 8-year-old boy, diagnosed with autism at age 15 months, lives with his parents and two siblings.

He is not toilet-trained, tears off his diapers, only drinks through a sippy cup. He doesn't sleep very much at night. He has no formal communication system.

His only means of communication has been hitting — he hits his mother and siblings when he is happy, when he is angry, when he is sad, which means "he is hitting pretty much all the time" he is awake, says his mom.

The average prevalence rate for autism spectrum disorders today is one in every 110 children. Forty percent do not speak at all. Children who cannot understand or predict the world around them, or tell their parents what they want and need, who are tormented by environmental sensitivities to light, sound and touch, and are often sleep-deprived, can engage in impulsive, disruptive and injurious actions.

Thanks to a behavior consultant, this boy's mom learned how to help her son turn a hit into a high-five. She's also learning Picture Exchange Communication System, so her son has another way to express what he wants or how he feels. They are working on a schedule and also on the first steps to toilet training, too.

But the current economic crisis has resulted in the elimination of funding for these family support services.

"I don't know what we'll do when she can't come anymore," the mom said.

Since 2008, Living Opportunities has provided training in communication and behavior intervention to families through its Semita Consulting department. On average, it takes $500 for a Semita consultant to provide an initial assessment, develop practical coping and teaching strategies, and coach the parents to make the plan a success for the child and the family.

Donations will keep one more child safe, at home, with his family. If you can help, contact Jean Atalla at Living Opportunities Inc. at 541-772-1503.