Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Lacking local sources for autistic children, rural Wisconsin parents created their own

Steve Malecki uses a 'sensory wall'.
(Wisconsin Dells photo by Ed Legge)
Rural children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), especially those in remote areas, face greater obstacles in receiving care, Ed Legge reports for Wisconsin Dells Events. Vivian Hazel, a licensed professional counselor in the field of autism treatment and a charter member of the Wisconsin Governor’s Council on Autism, told Legge, "If a child in a rural area is on the autism spectrum, and there is no other child within a 60-mile radius, it is very costly to serve that single child."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that one in 68 children have autism, Legge writes. In rural areas with small populations that could mean there are few children in a region with autism. Kelly Malecki, whose 9-year-old son Stevie was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum when he was 4, lives in Adams County, which has a population of 20,215 spread out over 689 square miles. She told Legge, “There’s a lot in a rural area we don’t have or don’t have access to. Any diagnostics are an hour and a half to two hours away.” Malecki said two insurance companies suggested she move to an urban location.

Adams County, Wisconsin
(Wikipedia map)
Rural Wisconsin parents of autistic children have made up for a lack of local resources by creating their own, Legge writes. In Adams County, Malecki helped created a local sensory room to help children with ASD as well as their parents. In neighboring Juneau County, Julie Bolton, who has two teenage children "on the autism spectrum, founded a local autism support organization called H.A.N.D.S. (Hunter and Nick Delivering Support for Autism) with the aim of creating social opportunities in the area for affected families with autism and to create awareness in the community."

Bolton told Legge, "They (people on the spectrum) need to experience life just like everyone else. If they don’t get the chance to come out and be with people, they will never know what it’s like to interact with people.”

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