Putting blocks in a puzzle is not play for two and a half year old Ava Christo. It is therapy for her autism, which stops her from even making eye contact and socializing normally.
She was developing well, and then regressed. At sixteen months of age, her speech disappeared. The best she can do now is sign language. Autism was a hard enough diagnosis for her mother to hear. Harder was finding out what to do.
"Where should I go, which is the best type of therapy, who's trained in the best type of therapy. None of those questions were answered for me. I had to go find that out for myself", said Ava's mother, Kim Cristo.
A new booklet may help other parents like Ava to find those things out. It is published by the four-decade-old organization, Autism New Jersey.
"The blueprints identifies the critical needs of the autism community and so parents professionals, and policy maker can consult the blueprint. It's a vision for the future," Linda Meyer, executive director of Autism New Jersey, said.
The booklet outlines where parents can go for help. It educates families, friends, and health professionals on the needs of the autism community, and what autism is: that every child and each adult have different symptoms.
Ava has therapy like this all day long, but parents may not know what kind of therapy is best for their child's individual needs.
Ava gets 24 hours a week of treatments that challenge her to communicate again. New Jersey pays for most of it. The booklet will help parents learn that things like this exist.
"Parents say they want a 911 number for autism one place to call to get the info they need when they're in crisis. We hope to develop that number," Linda said.
The disease runs a spectrum. Some autistic kids and adults are academically able. Others have to shown how to brush their teeth. It was just two years ago, that New Jersey passed a law where the EMT had to be educated in what autism is, and trained in how to respond. The booklet is free to anyone in the Tri-state area.
For more information, please visit www.autismnj.org. The helpline is 1-800-4-autism.