April is Autism Awareness Month

Kari Sharpe
Contributing writer

The month of April has been designated as Autism Awareness Month. Autism, as described by Dr. Allan Bloom, clinical psychologist for Educational and Developmental Intervention Services, is a “developmental disability characterized by difficulties in three areas: communication, social skills, and repetitive behavior patterns.” He also described autism as a “spectrum disorder,” meaning that every child with the disorder is different and unique.
“No two children with autism are exactly alike in their characteristics,” Dr. Bloom said.

Most children are diagnosed at about three to five years of age. Dr. Bloom explained that the benefits of early diagnosis include the opportunity to provide early intervention and the ability for parents to gain a better understanding of their children’s development.

The cause of autism is still unknown, he said. Children are born with it and there does seem to be “some genetic component because you may see it more often in some families,” Dr. Bloom said.

Melissa Krantz, special education coordinator for Department of Defense Dependent Schools Kaiserslautern District, said that this school district has about 50 children with autism.

The schools in this district can accommodate children with autism all along the spectrum. DODDS in Kaiserslautern has “a continuum of services for children with autism, from consultation to a contained classroom,” Ms. Krantz said. Classes are given to teachers to ensure they have the most up to date information regarding teaching children with autism.

The Army Community Service Exceptional Family Member Program has resources available, including the Autism Support Group, which offers an opportunity for families affected by autism to connect with others, said Sonya Dallas, a parent coordinator of the group.

“Getting to meet others in the support group who also have children with autism not only helped us feel less alone, but it also helped us learn a lot about how we can help our son,” Mrs. Dallas said. “We’ve made friends within the group and we’ve been able to share stories and get tips from other parents and listen to guest speakers from all around the area.”

For more information about the Autism Support Group and other resources
available through ACS, call the EFMP program at 489-8358 or 0631-536-8358.