Improving autism diagnosis and resources in rural Missouri
COLUMBIA - Organizers from ECHO Autism's summit are pushing for more resources for people with autism in rural Missouri. Many experts came together for the ECHO Autism Thought Leader Summit on Mental Health & Autism to discuss ways communities, including those in rural Missouri, can better provide for those with autism and affected families.
It was said several times that the system of helping those with autism is constantly changing and is difficult to navigate.
Executive director of ECHO Autism, Kristin Sohl, kicked off the summit. She said that although it's good that autism awareness is spreading and more people are being diagnosed, there's not enough acceptance and understanding about what autism is and how to support those with autism.
Alicia Curran, a mother with an autistic son, spoke about her story and the changes she wants so see in the community. When her son, Sam, was diagnosed with autism, she immediately began her journey of learning everything she could and spoke with countless experts. Although she had reached a point where she had felt confident with everything she had learned, one day in Sept. 2015 flipped her world upside down. Her son, who is almost twice her size, began to get violent with her and none of the gained knowledge prepared her for how to deal with that.
"I, for the first time in my life, was scared of my child," Curran said.
Curran's greatest fear then came true in Nov. 2017. Sam displayed symptoms psychosis due to a medication reaction.
"I remember thinking when I was down on the bed and he was hitting my head, my back, my shoulders, thinking, oh my god is he going to kill me one day?" Curran said. "For the first time I thought, here I am full of resources and I may not be able to get my child what I need to have him stay in our home and be part of our family."
Her son was later diagnosed with catatonia and has been undergoing treatment for the last year and a half. Curran doesn't share her story for people to feel sorry for her, but for others to realize that if it was difficult for someone like her, who has countless resources here in Boone County, to imagine how difficult it would be for someone who doesn't have access to the same knowledge and resources she does.
"Every individual with autism deserves to have success," Curran said. "Every family that's affected by autism deserves to get the support, and the services, and the resources they need to wrap around them and make that family and make that individual have a meaningful quality of life that can really really impact our society in such a positive way."
To learn moore check out ECHO Autism's site: https://thompsoncenter.missouri.edu/autism-training/echo-autism/