Changing treatments, technology for autism helping young adults

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (April 11, 2014)– It’s a diagnosis more and more parents are hearing: autism. During Autism Awareness Month, therapists are highlighting new technology and how treatments have changed since autism was first discovered.

Mother Beth Brown and her son Kyle began their journey to find the right treatment nearly 20 years ago.

“At the age of two he did not develop language and so we had him tested,” said Brown.

Since then Kyle has had nearly every kind of therapy available. As he got older, some of his behaviors became more aggressive and destructive. That’s when his family found Damar Services where Kyle now lives and goes to school.

Within the last year, he has begun using iPad technology to communicate.

“The thing I like most about the iPad is there’s voice and sound, so there’s voice with ‘I want chips please’ or ‘I want to see my mom,’” said Brown.

Kyle’s destructive behaviors are better. He can work with staff to make choices even without his own words and take videos to show new caregivers his routine. The iPad has replaced Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) for many people with autism who aren’t able to speak on their own.

But experts say new technology is only helpful when implemented in a strategic way.

“We want to make sure parents don’t just grab onto an app on an iPad and begin using that with their children,” said Damar President and CEO Dr. Jim Dalton.

“What we really recommend is a good assessment from a professional that helps parents match the needs of their children with the technology that’s available,” he said.

Dalton has another caution for parents: don`t let some of the numbers deceive you. Recent autism rates are shown to be as high as 1 in 68 children, a big change since the year 2000 when the numbers were 1 in 150. Dalton said rates likely are increasing, but so is awareness.

“Really the increase is most attributed to kids that were not identified before but are now identified and it’s really due more to our exposure and education,” he said.

Kyle will be transitioning into adult services at Damar–which is a growing part of the services the treatment centers offer.

There are also options for young children. Dalton said a diagnosis can be made as young as 2 years old but, often children aren’t diagnosed until they go to school and interact with students and teachers.

There are several community events for families during autism awareness month.

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