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Raising Awareness About Autism

April 30, 2010, 6:12 PM by Courtney Zieller

SIOUX FALLS, SD - One in every 166 children born today has autism. The condition is becoming more common across the country.  But a South Dakota facility that helps kids with autism is working to raise awareness.

Doctors diagnosed six-year-old Jack Carsrud with autism more than a year ago.

"No two children are alike. What one person is dealing with the other is not. Jack happens to be non-verbal so he doesn't talk but a lot of other kids talk," Vicki Carsrud said.

To help with the communication barrier, Jack's mom, Vicki, enrolled her son at Children's Care in Sioux Falls. While she's working, he's at school working one-on-one with a teacher, getting the attention he needs.

"Jack loves it. Jack loves them so it works well," Carsrud said.

Children's Care is a school and rehabilitation center that works with children and adults from birth until 21. Not all 100 students enrolled have autism, but more children are being diagnosed with the disability and they're there to help.

"The earlier we can diagnose, the better the outcomes for children. We can go in there and do behavioral therapy, start to teach and work with them at an early age," Vicki Isler with Children's Care said.

The center is raising awareness about autism by holding an open house. But the getting the word out needs to continue.

"We have these children diagnosed and we need more trained staff. We have only four board certified behavioral analysts in the state of South Dakota; other states have thousands," Isler said.

This year, Congress officially made April Autism Awareness Month and Children's Care workers hope that step will bring more awareness to communities across South Dakota.

"I do think we've made great strides but we have a long way to go and South Dakota is getting there but we need to focus on our training of staff and how we interact with these children and get their independence so they can be part of the community," Isler said.

Because more of this training is bound to help other families like the Carsruds.

"It's becoming more prevalent. More people are talking about it so I think it helps," Carsrud said.

If you think your child might have autism, Children's Care does free screening. You can call 782-2300 to set up an appointment.

[Learn more about autism from the Centers for Disease Control and Protection]

[Interactive tools to track child development]

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