World Autism Awareness Day In West Michigan

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich– It’s the country’s fastest growing “development disability.” Currently 1 in 88 kids are affected by Autism.

Tuesday organizations around the world celebrated Autism Awareness day, shining a spotlight on the condition.

As a state, recently Michigan has made great strides. Just last year the Autism Insurance Legislation that passed made access to care and treatment more readily available for families.

Not to mention, starting Tuesday kids between 18 months and 5 years can now get treatment coverage with Medicaid.

It’s something one Newago County mom said was far from reality just 15 years ago.

Kristie Rink said “if they don’t know somebody now they will and I’ve been saying that since he was 2, you may not know anybody this minute but it’s just a matter of time before it affects you personally.”

Rink said she went to the 3 doctors, some calling her just an over-concerned mom until one doctor finally diagnosed her son Devon with Autism.

Devon who is now 15 years old, can barely hold a conversation and you never know when he’ll a meltdown. For Kristie taking care of him is a full-time job.

She says “we live way out here to not have neighbors right up close because when he has meltdowns, I know you can hear him outside because he screams at the top of his lungs.”

Compared to 10 years ago, Kristie says there are now more resources out there, like the Hope Network’s Autism Center. It opened 3 years ago and focused on early intervention and intensive one-on-one therapy and since insurance started covering the treatment in October the center has really grown.

Dr. Mahan Krishan, Director of Children’s Services at Hope Network said “in the last year the amount of therapy we give has increased about 8 fold, its continuing to ramp up, we’re even adding staff and looking to add more locations.”

It’s all a step in the right direction, in a fight that’s far from over.

Dr. Krishan says “we’re working with families to get them into structured activities; we want them out in the community. We want them in school learning from their teachers, we want them doing all of those things.”

Doctors say early intervention is key. Not only could it mean a brighter future for a child but the investment early on Dr. Krishan says could save more than 2 million dollars in each kid over their lifetime.

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