Easter Seals Northern Ohio and Joe Kelly Battle Autism - the New U.S. Epidemic

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The story of how young Joe Kelly and the Kelly family are dealing with autism with the help of Easter Seals Northern Ohio.

Before she became a mom, Sue Kelly knew the chance of a boy having autism was greater than a girl's.

So when her first child, Erin (now 6 ½), was born she was relieved. A year and a half later, she gave birth to a son, Joe. Like all parents, she and her husband, Tom, were happy that the baby boy was healthy.

Two years after that, the family would learn that Joe showed up on the Autism Spectrum, the epidemic of our time as Easter Seals calls it. "My first reaction to the doctor was, 'no, you're kidding me,'" Sue says. "I was afraid."

Knowing there isn't a cure right now, the Kelly family started therapeutic assistance in the Cleveland, Ohio area. They came to Easter Seals Northern Ohio last year.

Five-year-old Joe is considered high-functioning autistic. His mom says the biggest concerns are his ability to learn and concentrate. Joe is easily distracted.

"If you met him, at first you really wouldn't know there's something wrong," she says.

At Easter Seals Northern Ohio, Joe receives weekly 30-minute speech therapy sessions in the Lakewood, Ohio office.

Understanding appropriate speaking volume can be a challenge for Joe, who sometimes speaks too loudly for the setting. He also is learning to wait for his chance to speak instead of interrupting someone. Phrasing his thoughts also can be a challenge. Joe might say, "I want to quit speech," instead of saying, "I don't want to go to speech."    

Sue says Joe's experience at Easter Seals Northern Ohio is special because of his dedicated speech therapist, Camille George.

Camille and Joe are scheduled to spend 30 minutes each Wednesday at the Easter Seals office in Lakewood. But Camille always spends extra time, Sue says. Plus, if scheduling conflicts prevent the Wednesday session, Easter Seals' Camille makes up the session at another time.

As Sue tells her family's story, she watches Joe enjoy playing outside with a friend--two 5-year-olds, one with autism and one without.

That scene, she says, is the one she wants parents of children without autism to remember. "He can learn a lot from typical kids. A typical child can actually help him."

Sue wants parents not to hesitate to have their children interact with children with autism. Set up play dates, she says, so both "typical" and children with autism can interact and learn from each other. She knows the need is only going to grow as the rates of autism continue to climb.

One of every 150 children is diagnosed with autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control. "Easter Seals is going to have a lot of business coming their way," Sue says.

Easter Seals is ready. More than a generation ago, the organization was front and center during the polio epidemic to help children and adults to learn to live independently. Today, Easter Seals is fighting the new epidemic and serves as the country's leading provider of services for people with autism.

Easter Seals Northern Ohio provides services locally to help people with autism live well. Online dialogue also is available through Easter Seals, with its autism blog, http://autismblog.easterseals.com/. The blog allows readers and posters to talk about the latest autism news and more. The Web site also includes extensive links autism-related sites.

For more information on how Easter Seals Northern Ohio can help you or your family deal with autism, contact us at (440) 838-0990 or go to our speech and language program services site.

About Easter Seals Northern Ohio
Easter Seals Northern Ohio's commitment to help children and adults with disabilities live with equality, dignity and independence is carried out through programs in four service areas: Medical Services, Home and Community Based Services, Educational Services and Recreational Services. Specifically, Easter Seals Northern Ohio specializes in speech therapy services for children, as well as a number of senior and home-healthcare programs in Northern Ohio, including Cleveland, Lorain, Akron, Canton, Fremont, Sandusky, Toledo and more. For more information, go to http://noh.easterseals.com/.

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Melissa Kocher
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