April is Autism Awareness Month

Fresno, CA It's a neurological condition that impairs social skills, communication and behavior. There is no cause or cure, but experts agree early intervention is crucial.

Ben Mohler loves playtime. But the 5 year old has trouble tolerating certain noises. The sound of this toy sends him into stimming. The shaking is a sign often seen in people with autism. Ben's mother noticed something was wrong when he was 15 months old. He made odd sounds. He didn't like hugs. The tantrums seemed endless.

Selinda Mohler, Ben's Mother: "Simple things that normal families are able to do together we couldn't go out to dinner."

Ben was exhibiting the common signs of autism which include difficulty relating to others, a hard time communicating, repetitive behaviors plus an odd response to sounds or touch.

"He had absolutely no language until he was 2 ½, no language, not momma not no."

Ben was referred to the Central Valley Regional Center for an assessment. A team of experts determine if a child is eligible for free services including speech, physical and occupational therapy. The center serves more than 14 thousand children and adults in the valley with disabilities... eleven hundred and seventy-two have all the behaviors of autism.

Tammy Enns, Central Valley Regional Center: "Once eligibility is established and we determine that they do have autistic disorder then they are assigned to a counselor who then looks at the different services available for them."

At the age of two, Ben was placed with EPU Exceptional Parents Unlimited. The center helps children from birth to three with developmental disabilities.

Autism is not a death sentence.

Kelly Cahill is a speech and language pathologist. She says 40 children at EPU have autistic-like behaviors. Treatment can vary with each child.

Kelly Cahill, EPU Speech & Language Pathologist: "We provide speech and language services both assessments and intervention occupational therapy, physical therapy each child has an early childhood specialist who also works in all areas of development."

"This swing is used as sensory therapy so kids like Lucas can learn to tolerate new sights, sounds and movement."

Frank Sanchez, Lucas' Grandfather: "He used to throw himself on the floor and get into little tantrums and now he doesn't' do that as often he still gets a little irate but he's more settled."

Dr. Richard Solomon is a leading autism expert. He says there is no known cause for autism, the latest research indicates it can be triggered by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Early treatment can achieve the best results.

Dr. Richard Solomon, Autism Specialist: "The earlier you get diagnosed the earlier you can treat and right now the best science says you can diagnose children with autism as early as 14 months."

Ben is now in kindergarten. His speech is no longer a problem. But he still needs help in other areas including social skills. His mother became so familiar with EPU, she was hired to assist other families.

"I'm one of the first contact people that you get after getting a diagnosis. It's just a friendly person saying I've been where you are I know some of the roads you're going to be on."

"Roads she and Ben are still travelling together."

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