Sharing is Caring…Building Resources and Experiences of Autism

As a Mother, you want the best for your family.

That being the case, back in the 1990’s, my search intensified for any help or information that would further my role as parent.

I was compelled by the fact that our family had two special needs children.

Knowing that my love and dedication to the cause was burning with desire I set forth to make a difference in a sincere yet bold way.

Autism and other developmental disorders were acknowledged but not intimately understood over 15 years ago when I wrote my first book, Little Rainman: Autism–Through the Eyes of a Child.

Pushing forward with Autismtoday.com, and other collaborations, has been wildly successful and helped thousands of other special needs individuals and their care givers to tremendously improve their quality of life.

It’s important for me to say that many strategies and perspectives can work.  Although there are no cure-alls or silver bullets, you must continue striving to discover any avenues that gel best with your situation.

As expected, there is a lot of information on the internet so please heed this word of wisdom: Be sure you are seeking reliable sources. Having worked with many caring professionals over the last decade and a half, I can also say that a few were less than adept in niche areas of developmental disabilities such as autism.   Sharing is caring.

From the bottom of my heart I cherish my role as special needs parent, teacher and entrepreneur as well as the myriad of experiences I have had not only with my family but with those that have fulfilling lives due to the resources I’ve developed.

My hope is that you may learn from the challenges, trials and tribulations in a positive manner.

Allow yourself to learn from my mistakes…and priceless successes.

Let me know what can be done to assist your particular situation.

What would best help you move forward?

Tell me what obstacles you confronted and attempted to overcome.

You took the first step reading this far, now share your story by leaving a comment below.

Hearing from you keeps me energized and happy to further my work with the disabled.

Karen Simmons
Mother, Wife, Author, Founder & CEO of AutismToday.com

 

P.S. Here is something I would like to recommend that will give you the tips,  strategies, and tools you need to help understand special needs issue.

To download a video presentation that will help you understand special needs issues, click here:
http://www.on2url.com/app/adtrack.asp?MerchantID=22629&AdID=616912

Stories From the Heart: Two Special Babies

The day I had waited nine months for finally arrived. My beautiful, perfect baby boy was here. Three years later my beautiful daughter arrived. Like every new parent, I had concerns. They were quickly put to rest by our pediatrician. By the time Emily was born, I was more relaxed. Many of my friends were jealous. I had gotten perfect children. My children slept while my friends’ children stayed awake.

I wasn’t experiencing the “terrible twos” and “horrible threes” my friends were experiencing. I gleamed with pride at the two gifts I had been given. The seemingly perfect reality I was experiencing was simply a facade of which even I wasn’t aware.

My son, Jacob had been receiving early intervention services at our home because of what we believed was a simple speech delay due to many ear infections. When he turned three, we were given the opportunity to send him to a full day speech and language school. Within months, Jacob was beginning to talk.

At the same time, our Emily was growing more beautiful with each passing day. She had a glowing personality. People everywhere were drawn to her smile and she warmed the hearts of all who met her. She wasn’t however, meeting some necessary milestones as quickly as other children her age. The pediatrician reassured us that Emily was merely “low tone” and that she would catch up eventually.

Months passed and Emily became more frustrated. When she was eleven months old I called early intervention services. She was evaluated and it was determined that physical and occupational therapies were required. Therapists were assigned and Emily quickly began meeting milestones. We cheered her on as the frustration lessened.

Our perfect world had been restored. Once again, however, perfection would be shattered by reality. We began to notice certain behaviors in our son had persisted despite his new found ability to communicate his needs. My husband and I realized that this needed further investigation.

Jacob would be entering kindergarten and we would have decisions to make. I took Jacob to a neurologist expecting him to laugh and say, “He’s a kid. This is what they do.” I sat in the office on that April afternoon, my stomach churning. I finally met the doctor, who instead of confirming my hopes, said, “Jacob is Autistic,” I was speechless. Questions loomed.

Autism was one of my worst fears. To me, Autism meant a child who could not connect with others, a child who did not want to be touched, and a child who would spend his adult life in a group home or institutionalized. Through tears, I tried to listen to the prognosis.

“Jacob could not be Autistic”, I thought. He loved to be held and hugged. Jacob was too smart for that-he already recognized all the letters of the alphabet! I didn’t understand. There were behaviors, the doctor said, which clearly pointed to Autism: the repetitive movements, the echolalia, the inability to make eye contact. Yes, this child was Autistic and would need a lot of work if he was to have any semblance of normalcy.

After Jacob’s diagnosis, I began to worry about Emily. I worried that some day we would get bad news about her too. She continued to improve and unlike her brother, she was very social. Fear subsided and we breathed a sigh of relief that life was once again returning to normal.

When Emily began to talk, however, we noticed that her speech patterns sounded muddled and she was difficult to understand. Once again, the wheels of fear turned in my head. Why was she having so much trouble? I felt an urging to find out, but chose to push the fear and doubts to the back of my mind.

I had been speaking with a family friend whose daughter has Down Syndrome. We discussed Emily’s therapies and she urged me to rule out bigger problems and not just treat the symptoms. I had felt this way too, but it’s unnerving to have someone else say it and not know your thoughts. Emily needed to see a specialist. We went back to the neurologist.

After looking at Emily, he said he felt it wasn’t anything terrible, just something that a simple blood test would reveal and could be “cured.” Much relieved, I took Emily home, thankful we had been spared. It took three weeks for the blood tests to come back. I went back to the neurologist’s office confident that all was well, while my son went to school and my husband went to work. I promised to call as soon as I was finished.

Finally it was our turn to see the doctor. He looked over Emily’s charts and said, “Ok, today we are here to discuss how to handle Emily’s Down Syndrome.”

“Emily has Down Syndrome?!” I asked in horror and disbelief.

Confused, the doctor looked back at the charts and quickly realized he hadn’t given me the bad news before because I’d had to cancel the previous appointment. Apologizing, he retraced his steps and explained to me that Emily had a rare form of Down Syndrome. This is why it had not been detected in my prenatal tests. Here I was, sitting in the neurologist’s office listening as he told me I didn’t have a normal child…..for the second time!

Hysterical and shaking, I left the neurologist’s office and called my husband. Now it seemed hopeless. Both of our “perfect” children would face insurmountable challenges that we could not take away. Over the next few days I cried. I begged God to inflict this upon me and spare my children. I begged Him to help me to understand why this tragedy had befallen our family.

Then, from out of deep depression and confusion came a soft voice in my heart urging me to do something. I realized that sulking and feeling depressed wasn’t going to help Jacob and Emily. I got to work. Using my knowledge as a teacher, I made endless phone calls to anyone I could think of.

Appointments with schools were made. Additional evaluations were scheduled. It took less than three weeks to place Emily in a half day preschool program. A process that should have taken months took a few weeks. Everyone wondered, how did we get it done so quickly? I had been through it before.

Emily’s diagnosis did more than help her. It helped my husband and me. We had been financially struggling and had been wondering all summer how we were going to pay the costly daycare Emily was enrolled in. With the diagnosis, Emily became eligible to attend a preschool program five mornings a week free of charge and a family friend became available to watch her in the afternoon.

The blessings have been endless. We are watching them learn and grow at their own pace. We realize that it won’t be easy, but we are prepared. We were especially excited to discover that Jacob’s prognosis has improved and with the right help he should be able to grow up and be like everyone else.

Happiness shines through Emily and it is impossible to feel anything but joy in her presence. Her ability to light up the world outshines her disability and all who meet her are amazed by her warmth and compassion.

Truly, a lesson has been learned. God gives us not what we think is best, but what He believes we need. He knew I needed them to teach me about love and acceptance. He knew that I had strength I thought was impossible. He knew that I was exactly the mother these two special babies needed. I am honored to know that I have been chosen to do His work.

By Susan Friedenburg

* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism experience.

Born Again with Baby Oil and a Birthing Pot

“Well, it looks like the pots giving birth” she said.

After dealing with another mischievous adventure of Jonathan’s, we just had to be grateful.

“All’s well that ends well” as the saying goes.

You see, it was supposed to be a simple get together with our next door neighbors who were brave enough to invite our family of eight over for dinner one evening. With our children born within a period of 10 years, they were handful to say the least.

We were all having a great time socializing and sharing stories when all of a sudden we heard this bloodcurdling screech coming from the other room.

It turned out that Jonathan, who was around five years old at the time, decided to crawl inside of a flower pot just barely big enough to squeeze his body in. Well, when it came time for him to try and get out that is when all hell broke loose.

At first we tried to squeeze and pull him out but it was no use.

We tried and tried as many ways as we could think of to get him to get out of the pot and were about to give up when my son Matthew suggested pouring baby oil around the top of the pot to see if we could pull him out.

That is what we did and he finally popped out making a sucking noise as he did.

And that, my friends, is what prompted my oldest daughter Kim to shout out the “…pots giving birth” line.

What a night that was.

Besides our family being large in number, we had two special needs children to boot.

We’ll never forget Jonathan being “born again” and the hospitality of our brave neighbors.

Looking back, I say kudos to them for seeing the humor in it all.

What mischief has your special needs child gotten into as a guest at another’s house?

How have you helped a special needs individual get out of a jam?

Share your unique story with me.  What happened?

To share your story, go to:
http://www.on2url.com/app/adtrack.asp?MerchantID=22629&AdID=616908

As always, I look forward to hearing from you.

Karen Simmons
Mother, Wife, Author, Founder & CEO of AutismToday.com

 

P.S. Here are recommended tips, strategies, and tools you need to help understand and cope with your mischievous special needs loved one.

Download a video presentation that will help you understand the nature of and simple solutions to cope with mischievious special needs individuals. Click this link:
http://www.on2url.com/app/adtrack.asp?MerchantID=22629&AdID=616910

 

AutismToday Founder Applies Special Needs Lessons to Aid School Programming

Welcome and thank you for taking a sincere interest in developmental disabilities and autism in particular.

Many years ago, Little Rainman: Autism–Through the Eyes of a Child, was my first book.

Though Little Rainman appeals to children, it has tremendous value for educators and parents too. It enables them to learn and understand what autism is all about, early on.

As an educator, you know how important the learning principles of “primacy” and “recency” are.  These principles are even more critical to a special needs child.

Being a special needs parent you can imagine what I’ve experienced and learned.

I’ve actually become a “teacher” in a manner of speaking.

The “school of hard knocks” (direct experience) and academia (reading and studying) have blended well for me and my family in our quest of loving and providing for our special needs children.

Early on, I was a bit shocked that many professionals didn’t seem to have a firm grasp of the particulars of autistic children.  Early detection of any developmental disability is critical and varying modalities of treatment abound based on accurate diagnosis.

Although I’ve learned much from the medical and professional community we both know that a black and white diagnosis, although helpful, doesn’t tell the whole story. Daily life with special needs children is as real as it gets.

By loving and guiding two special needs children one might say I’ve earned a PhD in real life special needs care experience.

Please share your story, what you did and how it worked as an educator or other professional in touch with special needs children.

To share your story, go to:
http://www.on2url.com/app/adtrack.asp?MerchantID=22629&AdID=616903

As always, I look forward to hearing from you.

Karen Simmons
Mother, Wife, Author, Founder & CEO of AutismToday.com

 

P.S. Here is something I would like to recommend that will give you the tips,  strategies, and tools you need to help understand special needs children, autism in particular.

To download a video presentation that will help you understand the nature of special needs children, autism in particular:
http://www.on2url.com/app/adtrack.asp?MerchantID=22629&AdID=616904

 

Stories From the Heart: My Sister Isn’t Stupid

My little sister Kelly was diagnosed with Autism and Sensory Inauguration Disorder. The day my mom told me about this I was shocked. Until that day I thought my sister was just stupid. I know that’s not nice, but I was just a little kid who didn’t know better.

I didn’t take the time to care for her like I did when she was a baby. I didn’t take the time to see why she was different, or how I could help her. I was embarrassed by how she was. I know better now because I’m 12, and my little sister is 4.

My little sister didn’t ask for this no one did. It came as a shock to all of us because of how beautiful she is and how “normal” she looks. We later found out that she couldn’t intake a lot of information at once because of how her brain processes things. Don’t get me wrong, my little sister and I are very close now.

I was eight when she was born. I was able to be in the room when she was brought into this world and I cut her cord. Then was the bond that begun. I broke that bond when I thought she was dumb for being what she is. She isn’t dumb though. She’s very smart in her own way, and she is my world!

I couldn’t have gotten this far without her. She knows when I need to talk to her or someone to play with. She is very tall for her age. She is smart in my mind because of certain things she can do that I can’t. She is a great person to be around when you need to be cheered up.

We always play this game called tickle game. I run after her and she screams and tries to hide but I find her and tickle her like crazy. Her laugh and her smile light up my world. She knows how to make you feel happy. If it was possible everyone would want a little sister like Kelly.

She goes to Early Childhood at an elementary school where a lot of people understand her and help her needs. She has a terrific teacher and I am glad she has taken time to help her.

All I can say to you is if you have ever made fun of a disabled person you better think twice. They may indeed be smarter than you think they are. And they are somebody’s sister, brother, son, daughter, or best friend.

Author Unknown

* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism experience.

Hyperlexia…Mistaking a Disabled Child as Gifted

“Re-cy-cle”

He just read his first word!

My husband Jim and I looked at each other in amazement.

We had just taken our two and a half year old son Jonathan to the park in Edmonton, Alberta for a family outing.

My husband and I were one each side of Jonathan walking forward holding one of his hands.  We lifted and swung him and forward, then gently lowering him to the ground while continuing to walk.

Jonathan loved it.  We called it the “123 weeeeeee…” game.

Jonathan had spotted a truck with the word “recycle” on it. He was just barely learning how to talk let alone read and we were so taken by surprise that we actually didn’t believe it at first.

We thought wow we have a gifted child on our hands.

We were so excited that we called the autism society to tell them all about it. I believe we spoke to a woman by the name of and Anita at the time who informed us that this was hyperlexia.  She said it was wonderful that Jonathan was able to speak, however he may not be comprehending what he is saying.

Long story short, some children with autism demonstrate this phenomenon and can lead many parents down the wrong pathway.

I’m glad that Jim and I recognized it for what it was and took immediate measures to get him into the proper intervention program to encourage his comprehension skills.

Has your child demonstrated any special or extraordinary skills for their age?

“Special needs” children can be either disabled or gifted.  What has been your experience?

Share your story with me now by leaving a comment below.

I look forward to hearing about your special needs story.

Karen Simmons
Mother, Wife, Author, Founder & CEO of AutismToday.com

 

P.S. Here is something I would like to recommend that will give you the tips, strategies, and tools you need to deal effectively with special needs in your child’s life.

To download a video presentation that will help you understand the nature of early detection of special needs, click this link:
http://www.on2url.com/app/adtrack.asp?MerchantID=22629&AdID=616900

 

Love, Dedication and the Gift of Sharing a Little Rainman

True beginnings are a gift to be treasured.

Since two of my six children have special needs I felt strong compassion and dedication, as a Mother, to share my experience with you.

Many years ago, Little Rainman: Autism–Through the Eyes of a Child, was my first book.

That is where it all began.

From the bottom of my heart, in Little Rainman, I share many personal issues surrounding autism through the experiences of my family. Trials and tribulations are unique yet occur in similarity within many families of special needs children.

My hope is that you may learn from my challenges so you will be further ahead of the autism and special needs curve by learning from my mistakes and successes.

It’s important for me to say that many of these strategies and perspectives are working with us, and may provide a jump start for your family.

It’s not often that a significant opportunity opens itself in one’s life.

Challenges help you move forward. You discover what is really important.

I poured my hopes, dreams, desires and shear willpower into making a difference.

No matter where or how you seek help, always remember to shine like a beacon of hope for your special needs children…they need you.

Do you wonder how you’ll manage with special needs children?

Have you ever wanted to just throw-in-the-towel sometimes?

What have you done to make things work in your family with special needs children?

Now is the time to share your story, please leave your comments below.

Be a beacon of hope.  Provide the foundation your children need.  I’d love to hear from you.

Karen Simmons
Mother, Wife, Author, Founder & CEO of AutismToday.com

 

P.S. Here is something I would like to recommend that will give you the tips, strategies, and tools you need to help understand special needs children, specifically autism.

To download a video presentation that will help you understand autism, click below:
http://www.on2url.com/app/adtrack.asp?MerchantID=22629&AdID=616895

 

Stories From the Heart: In Life and In Death, Always Faithful

Like most military children, Marc Tace knew how to wait. He knew how to wait for his Marine Corps dad’s next job, his next homecoming and the next deployment. Marc knew how to wait even when his dad’s absences only could be explained by the words “Semper Fi” (Marine Motto, which means “Always Faithful”).

And for a child who’s missing his dad, that’s a hard concept. But unlike most military children, Marc waited without moving. Diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at the age of four, Marc was wheelchair-bound by the time he and I were in elementary school.

I remember his wheelchair, decked out with 17th Street Surf Shop and USMC stickers, like I remember my grandparents’ brown Volvo station wagon coming up the street. Marc’s wheelchair was simply part of my elementary school experience, long before “inclusion” was a word tossed around in newspaper editorials.

Marc’s mom became somewhat like a beloved aunt. I looked forward to seeing Mrs. Tace in the school hallway as she helped Marc with the things he needed. She’d come down the hall, dressed in a jeweled sweatshirt with the American flag on it, singing something like, “I love you, you love me, we’re a happy family” to me, and Marc would roll his eyes with feigned embarrassment.

My favorite memory of Mrs. Tace and Marc was when they found me crying in the hallway of the junior high school. “Now, we can’t have our little Sarah crying,” Mrs. Tace said, and then she let Marc and me play hooky from school and took us to get donuts.

Later, Marc and I went to the same high school and college. He was always there. And so was Mrs. Tace. While our dads were away on military assignments, our families spent Easters and Thanksgivings together. And over time, Marc’s wheelchair got bigger and more complex. There were more machines, more contraptions keeping him still, and keeping him waiting.

Then I got married, moved away and had children. In some ways, I had left my military childhood behind. I no longer knew exactly when my dad was out on detachment or home with mom. But each time I went home and saw Marc, I was reminded how faithfully he still waited, the world coming to him as he waited for his dad’s homecomings.

But in 1994, Col. Tace died of a massive heart attack while serving overseas and never came home. Everyone wondered, “What will Mrs. Tace and Marc do? How will they manage?” No one could have anticipated the strength and support of the greater military family that would keep them going. No one could have anticipated the way Marc would rise to the occasion and become the father figure for his family. And no one anticipated,although we should have, the way the Marines would take care of their own and embrace Marc and his family.

Last week, more than 10 years after Col. Tace’s death, it was that same strength and support that cradled Mrs. Tace when she laid Marc to rest next to his dad. With an American flag in one hand and the Marine Corps flag in the other, Mrs. Tace kissed her son’s coffin and told him, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here with you.”

A military jet screeched overhead, rustling the flaps of the tent where we stood.  I smiled as I thought, “Leave it to a Marine to arrange a fly-by for the funeral of a Marine’s son.”

Muscular dystrophy finally took Marc Tace’s life, just a few months shy of his 30th birthday. Yet in some way, death also freed Marc. Because the morning Mrs. Tace found her son lying still in his bed wasn’t any ordinary day. No, the day Marc slipped from this life to the next, to find what he’d been waiting for, was Father’s Day. And so it was, on the day set aside for fathers and their children, Marc went home to be with his dad, where this time the Marine stood waiting for his son.

Semper Fi.

Author Unknown

* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism experience.

Disability Diagnosis Voided Due to Early Intervention

There are many twists and turns for a family with special needs children.

Although a doctor’s diagnosis opens the door to much assistance needed in caring for special needs children , no parent expects to hear their child has a disability.

With Alex, our youngest son, early intervention was a great jump start in dealing with his mild ataxic cerebral palsy.  He was diagnosed at six months.

The unexpected “twist” was that because of the support Alex received at that time, the doctor literally voided the diagnosis since, apparently, Alex no longer qualified.

However, because of the intervention we now call him Mr. Chatty Cathy, whereas if he had not had intervention he may have never spoken.

This was good news at the time, though his doctor, after seeing how well Alex was doing at home, said “Alex is not a CP kid.”

In addition, as a family, certain support was not available to us.

This set of circumstances presented many challenges to say the least.

Things like speech and language therapy had to be paid out-of-pocket to the tune of hundreds of dollars per week.  Without significant resources, the bills add up very quickly. To say it was difficult is an understatement.

You may have heard the phrase “Easy come, easy go” or “What the Lord gives, the Lord may take away.”  Given the reversed diagnosis, we had to push forward, remaining grateful for Alex’s improvement.

Either way, in Alex’s case, there was a direct benefit to early intervention. Alex could speak and understand certain concepts but was unable to put those concepts together into a complete thought.

For example, when pictures of a baseball bat, a football, a softball, a cash register, and a pair of skates were shown he had difficulty understanding that was a sporting goods store.

The bottom line here is that we are happy he can talk and communicate with us as his life would be much more difficult without having this early type of intervention.

Our goal with Autism Today is to make resources available for everyone through early recognition, diagnosis and subsequent strategies for improvement.

What struggles have you had with a diagnosis of a special needs child?

How did you or your family manage this process in order to best help?

Please share your story with me, what you did and how it worked.

To share your story, leave a comment below.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you.

Karen Simmons
Mother, Wife, Author, Founder & CEO of AutismToday.com

 

P.S. Here are tips, strategies, and tools I recommend for you to understand and cope with the diagnosis of a special needs child.

To download a video presentation that will help you understand the nature of this situation, click this link:
http://www.on2url.com/app/adtrack.asp?MerchantID=22629&AdID=616892

 

Life’s Stepping Stones Prepare Mother to Help Those on Autistic Spectrum

Being open minded and allowing one self to investigate all possibilities is a virtue that is worth the time and effort necessary.

Not until recently did I realize the ultimate benefit of various experiences early on in my life. I’m grateful for how my past molded me into the woman I am today…a mild mannered yet hard working and strong willed Mother of two special needs children.

A short vignette of who I am and where I’ve been will help you relate, at least in some way, with me. Of course, I want to get to know you too.

Although currently residing in Canada, I was born in Oklahoma, raised in Florida, Georgia and Texas.

My Mother worked for Pan American Airlines and Dad was an Aeronautical Engineer (most definitely on the autism spectrum though I didn’t know it at the time).

We travelled quite a bit and I developed a love for gemstones. After getting out of the Air Force (stationed in Panama City, FL) I went to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in CA to become a Gemologist.  I then moved to Seattle, WA and had my own gem shop where I sold large diamonds, colored stones and custom jewelry. (I still work in our jewelry store from time to time and still sell some larger gemstones).

It’s interesting to note that, as a jeweler, one has to pay attention to details and accurately determine the value of luxurious “stones” and other jewelry.

Although I attended GIA, there were several other organizations that also determined the value of diamonds and other colored stones. Determining the value of a diamond is both a science and an art. A GIA gemologist’s opinion of a diamond’s value can differ from that of a gemologist at any other diamond grading institution, even when grading the exact same diamond.

You’d be amazed how this helped me deal with various doctors and mental health professionals involved with my two special needs children.

Opinions are just that, opinions. Accept that which works for you, whether or not someone else says otherwise. After all, my son Alex’s diagnosis shifted a lot since his birth…nothing was guaranteed.

As a Mother, I soon found what really mattered was our home life as a family and how we loved our children. Our two special needs children are my real “gems.”

1984 brought a move to Canada and life as a newlywed.

Looking back, there were certainly many changes in my life that required me to roll with the changes and adapt to new places and challenges. This certainly prepared me to handle autistic children.

It’s as if my entire life prior to marriage was preparing me for something without yet knowing what that “something” was.

My hope is that doing what I do and having been blessed with wonderful life experiences can in turn help you and your family.

Always be open minded, willing to change, continually learning, empathetic and forever loving your role in life to help others in need.

What is your background that has enabled you to help others?

How has your past prepared you for the trials of today?

Take a moment to share your story with me.

Tell your story now by leaving a comment below.

As did mine, your past can help support a fabulous future.

Karen Simmons
Mother, Wife, Author, Founder & CEO of AutismToday.com

 

P.S. Please check out a few recommendations that will give you tips, strategies, and tools for preparing for the future with a special needs individual.

To download a video presentation that will help you prepare for life with a special needs loved one, please click this link:
http://www.on2url.com/app/adtrack.asp?MerchantID=22629&AdID=616815

 

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1 in
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Diagnosed with Autism

Over
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Autism Diagnosis a Day

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Billion per Year

Boys are
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Times More at Risk