Getting the Word Out

April 2nd marked World Autism Awareness Day. Several people in the area wore blue and held events to raise support for the growing number of children diagnosed with autism.

Five-year-old Johnny Baranowsky loves to play with the train set at Naperville’s Little Friends Center for Autism. He’s been attending programs there since he was first diagnosed at the age of 3.

“When Johnny first experienced symptoms I wasn’t educated enough,” said Johnny’s mom, Emily. “My big thing is to educate everyone so they do know the signs and what to look for if your child is experiencing those and what they can do there are tons of resources out there.”

This World Autism Awareness Day, Emily and others in the community got the word out about the fastest growing developmental disorder in the country.

Naperville’s Turning Pointe Autism Foundation kicked off the campaign with a pep rally where more than 100 people showed their support.

“We wanted to really bring these groups together so that we could have a united front and so the public would be aware that together we can do more for families who have a need,” said Walter Johnson, CEO of Turning Pointe Autism Foundation.

Autism affects one in 50 school aged children in the United States. Because there is such a wide variation of symptoms, the American Psychiatric Association has recently united Autistic Disorder, PDD-NOS – or Pervasive developmental disorder, and Asperger’s, under one umbrella term, autism spectrum disorder OR ASD.

Indicators include impaired thinking, feeling, and social functioning. Scientists have recently discovered that with early diagnosis and intense treatment, thousands of children have shown improved language and social skills.

Since Johnny began the therapy known as Applied Behavior Analysis or ABA, his mother has seen a significant improvement in her son’s behavior.
“Right away we started noticing him doing great. He’s speaking, he’s talking in sentences very clear so it’s done wonders for him he’s doing great now,” Emily said.

Scientists have no cure for ASD and don’t really know what causes it, but believe it stems from a combination of genetics and environmental factors, influencing early brain development.

The Obama Administration recently announced they will be dedicating funds to Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies, or “BRAIN”. The one million dollar project could someday uncover causes and treatments for certain diseases including autism spectrum disorder.

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