New autism support group convenes
Parenthood is riddled with challenges no matter the child, however parents of children with autism, or one the related disorders, may need just a little extra heart.
Amanda Flemett, newly relocated to Price, has embraced the raising of her daughter Harmony, 11, with a warm sense of humor and the fierce protectionism of a mother bear. Her daughter was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome when she was 8 years old and the family was stationed in Hawaii.
Unlike many parents who might be scared and daunted by such a diagnosis, Flemett reacted in what seems to be a consistently proactive manner.
"I was like yay we have a name for this," she said.
She said that as Harmony grew she and her husband, Nicolas, noticed some differences in their child from other kids her age.
"At age 8 she had no friends and was completely content to stay in her room by herself," said Flemett. "The really scary thing was that when she was really little she could see a Disney movie just once and then repeat the entire dialog of the movie word-by-word."
While many of Flemett's friends thought the memorization ability was great and commented in what a smart child Harmony was, Flemett said it worried her because it was so unusual.
Once the diagnosis was made the family dove into solutions for Harmony including medications, intensive therapy, teaching her to write in a journal and limiting how much television she gets to watch daily.
Autism is described as a severe developmental discord that begins at birth or within the first 2-and-half years of life, according to materials from the Autism Research Institute Web site. Children with the disorder may exhibit repetitive behaviors such as rocking back and forth, spinning and flapping and flicking their fingers.
They may also have trouble communicating and interacting with others, the institute's materials state.
However, while autism may be the most commonly known disorder, there are other disorders that fall under the category, including Asperger's which is associated with impaired social interaction and failure to develop age appropriate peer relationships.
Children with Asperger's do not usually have significant impairment of language and cognitive skills, according to ARI information.
Flemett said she and other parents with children diagnosed with one of the disorders need to be assertive and consistent in seeking out the maximum amount of support and help for their children.
She said to help a child challenged with one these disorders it takes a holistic approach that includes the schools, the medical profession and the parent.
She expressed frustration that Carbon County does not have one child pyschiatrist in residence and said that state provided services that arrive about three times a year in a traveling medical van just aren't adequate.
"We need brain professionals here, the care should not be left on the pediatricians," she said. "We need more local resources."
Flemett's proactive approach to parenting led her to form a support group here in Carbon County to give parents a place to share ideas, resources and fine empathetic ears, she said.
The second meeting of the Autism Support Group is scheduled for tonight at the Southeastern Utah Health Department on Main Street in Price at 6:30 p.m.
In addition to the support group meeting, Flemett said there will be a holiday social for parents and kids later in the week. Her notice on the social states "The purpose of this is so that maybe our children can enjoy a bit of the holiday season."
Many times, "neurotypical" people do not understand why the holidays are so stressful for children with autism.
But for children with autism, everything is so different. Then add that to any sensitivities the youth rmay have such as light, noise, touch etc., and the children face a world of confusion and/or too much excitement.
Carbon County parents interested in finding out more about the support group may contact Amanda Flemett at 472-1297.
Residents mayalso e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.