Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Autism Schedules Rule

Fox Valley parents discuss challenges of raising a child with autism | Appleton Post Crescent |

APPLETON — In the Meulemans household, schedules rule.

Most schedules are taped to cabinets in the family's downstairs therapy room, but they are prominently displayed on the kitchen refrigerator as well.

The schedules chart weekend and weekday routines, including when the bell will ring to signal the start and end of classes at Appleton's Janet Berry Elementary School, plus recess and lunch in between. There also are bus schedules and therapy times for the kids to check.

"Our family can't function without them," said Becky Meulemans, chief schedule keeper and mom to Clayton, 8, Gavin, 7, and Maddox, 6, three lively sons with autism, a neurological developmental disorder characterized by communication and social issues.

Meulemans' day-to-day challenges are nothing new to Fox Valley mothers Lisa Robbins and Becky Kostopolus, who also have sons who have been diagnosed with autism. The three women shared some of challenges they face in raising children with autism recently, given that April is National Autism Awareness Month.

They hope the more people understand their children's disorder, the greater the public's compassion and acceptance will be for people across the autism spectrum.

Autism is hard to comprehend for those who haven't walked in these parents' shoes because it is almost a hidden disability, said Peggy Bartman, member of the Autism Society of the Fox Valley Board and an autism consultant for Cooperative Educational Services Agency 6.

All children can be difficult, Bartman said, "But these kids can be particularly wearing kids. They require a high degree of adult supervision, a high degree of structure."

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