Upstate SCAS Family on WYFF News
Raising autism awareness is family affair for mother, son
April is National Autism Awareness Month
While April is designated as National Autism Awareness month, one Upstate family finds time to educate others year-round about the disorder.
Susan Leiby, of Greer, is a special events coordinator with the South Carolina Autism Society. Her son, Michael, 8, has autism.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention refers to the disorder as "autism spectrum disorders" and describes ASDs as a "group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges."
The CDC estimates that 1 in 88 children have an ASD. Leiby said statistics also show her son is far from alone.
"For boys, it's one in 54," Leiby said. "So if you look around your community and your classrooms and your churches, anywhere you go, there is likely someone there with autism."
Leiby said Michael showed signs of autism as early as age 2, when he experienced language delays. He was diagnosed as a preschooler. He is now a third-grader at Buena Vista Elementary School.
"He is doing wonderfully. I can't speak highly enough about early intervention and how important that is," Leiby told WYFF. "He's always been in a regular classroom. He is actually in gifted and talented and he gets all As and Bs."
Leiby said Michael still has some behavioral issues and difficulties with language and social interaction.
"But anticipate that he's going to go on to college one day and be whatever he wants to be," Leiby said.
For now, Michael is an eager advocate for autism awareness. He has accompanied his mother to special events to bring attention to the disability. Michael has also met with his legislative representatives and Gov. Nikki Haley.
Michael said he had a suggestion for the governor.
"Make sure that all schools and families have plenty of money for kids and adults with autism ... so that they have the money to be treated how they need," the young Leiby told WYFF.
His mother echoes those sentiments.
"If your child is under 3, they can start getting speech, physical and occupational therapy, and applied behavior analysis. They're going to be one step ahead," Leiby said. "Hopefully, by the time they're in second grade, they may be indistinguishable from their peers. That doesn't always happen, but the quicker you start these therapies, the better chance there's going to be."
For more information on autism, check out the website for the South Carolina Autism Society: www.scautism.org