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home : health : health Saturday, November 25, 2017

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Autism Receives Help From a Local Non-Profit

Amy Doeun

For any parent whose child is diagnosed with special needs the diagnoses can be confusing and disturbing and the next course of action can be difficult.

When Susanna Moses' daughter Monica was born she seemed like a healthy normal child. Her development seemed normal until she reached the age of about 20 months. "She was completely healthy and normal until she was 20 months old then she lost her ability to walk and talk. It all happened within a month. She had a rapid digression within about 1 month." By the time she was 3 years old in 1998 she was diagnosed with Autism.

Autism affects communication, motor skills, sensory capacity and social skills. "Often times children with autism are very withdrawn. They don't look you in the eye because they don't respond that way but they are listening all the time. They have difficulty communicating, but can use sign language, pictures, and computer boxes."

Susanna worked closely with Frazier Development Center in Minnesota and worked to discover ways to help her child succeed. "Monica has had literally thousands of hours of therapy." But she is proof that with therapy and resources children can recover.

"She was very severe on the autism spectrum. She wasn't able to walk or talk. Now [at age 17] she has only 1 thing on the spectrum. She is not the average case but she can be an inspiration. We try to inspire other parents."

Moses knows first hand the confusion and struggle of parents whose children have special needs. She also knows the hours that go into finding therapy and funding options so that your child will succeed. She has taken her experience and started, "Hand in Hand for Autism." This local non-profit is formed of parent volunteers who have all been there and are able to help other parents on their journey.

She explained, "We are looking for a parent volunteer who is bi-lingual in Hmong to help 'Hand in Hand For Autism' resources. We do not have an office most of the consultations we do are over the phone, email or on-line." She went on to explain where many parents are coming from, "They just got a diagnoses, they don't know where to go. We ask questions and find out what their priorities are. We email a list or mail a list of resources for them. Everything is free." She did say that currently there is a small barrier, "I don't have a parent volunteer in Hmong or Vietnamese, but they can have a member of the family call that speaks English and we will try to connect them to a place that has services in their language."

While Hand in Hand for Autism started in the Twin Cities there are national resources and that provide help for any kind of special need. "We teach them and guide them. They could be eligible for social security and medical benefits. We also see if we can help them get their services paid for. They don't have to go anywhere for the help, they don't have to come to an office."

Susanna and Monica also wrote a book about Monica's journey entitled, Monica's Silent World. The book gives parents a glimpse into the world of a child with autism, "It gives you an insight into behaviors, why they do what they do but it is told in a story format." Over the years several people had submitted illustrations but none seemed quite right, "Finally Monica herself decided that she wanted to try illustrating it. When I took it to workshops people couldn't believe it was Monica's work. Since then she has illustrated 2 more books. Since she was 10 this is what she wanted to do."

Even with severe autism, not being about to walk or speak she recovered and was able to attend regular classes in high school and she is going to go to college. She even designed a website that will allow other kids with special needs to showcase their special talents. Susanna explained, "The kids can get credit, no matter what their background."

Susanna said that she encourages parents to keep working with their child even is they don't see any improvement. She also added that Hand in Hand for Autism tries to be very sensitive to cultural traditions. It is compiled of parents with children with special needs. "We don't get offended if they don't want service providers in their home or a specific service. We bring the services and parents together. We bring service providers together. We do speaking arrangements and answer questions. We have been training parents for over 15 years."

For more information visit www.handinhand4autism.org.

St. Paul, MN



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