Apr 16, 2010 2:31 PM by Monica Quintero
Autism has risen dramatically and there are thousands of people diagnosed with autism on the Central Coast.
In Santa Barbara County, it's estimated to be around 4,000. In San Luis Obispo County, there are approximately 2,500 with autism. April is autism awareness month. A conference was held in Buellton on Thursday to educate families and professionals about that issue.
Carrie Zaragoza is the parent of an autistic child. Her son is 6-years-old and little Jesse attends Solvang Elementary. She said, "It really affects your life in so many ways. It's just a really big challenge."
Autism is rising in epidemic proportions. According to the Centers for Disease Control, nationally one in 110 children have an autism spectrum disorder.
Experts at the conference said back in the 70's, it was one in 10,000. Anne Holmes, Chief Clinical Officer, said, "We really do feel California is behind. I think we have continued evidence that appropriate services can be provided." She held a session at a conference. Her topic-- implementing a quality autism program in a public school environment. Holmes said, "it's a lack of knowledge and then lack of resources." Holmes said there's also debate on which strategies to use on autistic children. She said, "We really have to look at the facts, is it working or not?" Zaragoza said, "I feel like in the school system you need to take your child as an individual case."
But Zaragoza knows that sometimes doesn't happen because of the lack of funding or time it takes. She doesn't believe just one program is the answer to help autistic children including hers. Holmes said one of the keys is training teachers. Training them on how to best implement strategies. She said practical strategies in a public school environment.
Other topics covered at the conference included obtaining health insurance coverage as well as National Autism Standards and why they are important.
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