Thursday, June 12, 2008

Easter Seals Oklahoma to help autistic children

Easter Seals to help autistic children

by: AP Wire Services
6/11/2008 12:00 AM

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A group that helps people with disabilities and special needs will offer therapeutic programs to help treat the symptoms of autism in young children.

Easter Seals of Oklahoma plans to open the Easter Seals Autism Therapeutic School in Oklahoma City after Labor Day, Programs Director Wayne Rohde said. Eventually, the group would like to expand the program to Tulsa and other cities.

"This is going to be geared toward the kids prior to grade-school age," Rohde said.

A bill that would have required insurance companies to cover autism therapies, called Nick's Law, was named after Rohde's son. The measure didn't get a hearing in the Oklahoma House.

"We can actually help these kids lose many of the symptoms of autism," Rohde said.

Children ages 2 to 5 who are eligible for the first day-care class of 10 to 12 will be chosen by lottery.

Keith Geary, founder of Aaron's Bridge, an advocacy group named for his 7-year-old autistic son, said many Oklahomans send their children out of state to autism specialists.

Geary is hoping that this program can change that.

"It seems to be natural for them," he said of Easter Seals offering the service. "We just want to see all the kids in Oklahoma get the chance to get better."

The full-day program will feature therapeutic services and interaction with children without autism who attend an onsite day care.

Children who are chosen must be physically healthy before they can benefit from therapy, Geary said.

Participants in the therapeutic program will be assessed to determine their needs, and parents must agree to work with their children at home and will be trained to do so.

"You just don't drop your child off for eight hours," Rohde said. "When you're dealing with autism, it's 24/7."

The program will either be free or have a minimal charge, Rohde said.

Money to pay for the program comes from donors and grants.

Aaron's Bridge will hold a fundraiser, "A Night in Casablanca: A Blast from the Past," on June 27 at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.

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