Living with autism: Putting the pieces together

CHAZY Every day can prove a challenge for parents of a child with autism. Lori Latremore has an 18-year-old son, Keegan, who was diagnosed with autism when he was a toddler. Unlike many parents, however, Latremore was somewhat aware of the warning signs. While majoring in physical education in college, she unknowingly caught a glimpse of the condition her son would have. I worked with a girl with autism and I remember thinking, 'Boy, I can handle anything except for this, said Latremore. She was very intense, she had tantrums a lot and very little language. When her son was one year old, Latremore began to see similar behaviors in him, particularly in his lack of speech and eye contact. Initially, Keegans pediatrician shrugged off Latremores concerns. Keegan eventually developed a need for self-stimulating behavior, more commonly referred to as stimming. Even at such a young age, Keegan began taking a wooden spoon with him everywhere he went, constantly spinning it around, Latremore said. That led her to take him back to his pediatrician where she showed him what was concerning her. I took the spoon from him at the pediatricians office and my son literally climbed [the pediatrician] to get to the spoon, grabbed it and started spinning it, she recalled. That's when his pediatrician said, 'Yeah, I think you've got a problem here. She learned stimming was a way Keegan calmed himself, finding security in controlling the repetition of the spoons movement. After undergoing years of behavior modification programs and therapy, Keegan overcame his stimming and many of his other autistic behaviors, Latremore said. He's learned to deal with [his autism] and he's done a really remarkable job, as do a lot of these kids, if you just give them time, said Latremore. Latremore recently attended a forum hosted by the Clinton County Advocacy and Resource Center in Plattsburgh. The center is in the process of developing specialized support services for children struggling with autism and is reaching out to the community for support of their own. Todd M. Castine, the centers director of clinical services, has prepared a second application for state grant funding to build upon the programs already offered at the ARC. If awarded, the funding would help with the renovation of a building owned by the ARC that would house support groups for families and socialization groups for autistic children and their siblings. We are moving forward ... and most importantly, I think that all of the families involved are learning that the agency is in it for the long haul, said Castine. Once we start to commit resources, then you know that the decision has been made. In order to stress the importance of the centers application, Castine urges people to attend a People First forum that will be held at May Currier Park on Tom Miller Road Thursday, Sept. 11, from 5-8 p.m. The forum, hosted by the state Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, will seek comments from the public about what additional services are needed in the area. Letters of support and calls to elected representatives will also be helpful, he said. Another forum on autism services will be hosted by the ARC Wednesday, Oct. 15, beginning at 5:30 p.m. The ARC administrative building is located at 231 New York Road, on the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base. Those wishing to attend are asked to register in advance by calling 563-0930. A limited amount of space for child care for special needs children will be available and must be requested in advance. We all have the same goal we want the best for our children, just like any other parent, said Latremore. We just need a little more help getting there because they need a little more help getting there.

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