Eller pushes for more autism awareness
By Rima Austin | September 6, 2018 8:09 am
Stories like the one from Dickson County in which a father was arrested for allegedly killing his 5-year-old autistic son are the subject of nightmares for parents who have children with special needs.
It is because of this story and others like it that Lisa Eller, who has a non-verbal autistic son, thought there should be more awareness brought to autism.
Eller stated her history of working with special needs children and adults aided her in recognizing the signs that her son could have autism at a young age. She stated he was already in therapy before he got an official diagnosis, and she knew he needed speech therapy because of her history as a speech therapist.
“Most parents, if they have not been around someone who is autistic would not know what to look for early on,” said Eller.
Eller explained that if parents suspect a child may be autistic, then Tennessee Early Intervention System is a good resource. This program helps parents with children up to the age of 3 who are suspected of having developmental delays and disabilities. She goes on to say that after the age of 3, the school system should take over.
“Getting a diagnosis of autism or other types of diagnosis like that is like going through the grieving process,” said Eller. “You have all these expectations of what your child is going to be like. You think they are going to be playing football or go to a regular classroom. You change over time as you see your child not hitting the milestones that they should be hitting. So it’s difficult for parents.”
Eller also said that it is out of this frustration that the root of abuse stems from. When parents do not seek to get educated on the needs of their children, it becomes frustrating for both parent and child. She said when the parents learn that their child has a developmental disability, everything suddenly becomes about that child.
Dr. Larry Thompson, special education supervisor, for the White County school system, said his job is to help teachers in the classroom have more access to resources they need to teach children with special needs. Thompson said he believes there should be more awareness about autism.
“Oh sure, there needs to be more awareness so kids can know how to work with each other and how the public can work with these students,” said Thompson. “There needs to be quite a bit more awareness to get out there.”
Thompson stated he is not aware of any abuse recently in White County, but Eller said education on the boundaries of special needs children is still important. Referring to her son, she said there are some things he does not recognize as being dangerous.
“He would walk out into a busy street, and it doesn’t cross his mind,” said Eller. “Walking into water would not cross his mind either.”
Eller stated there are a lot of grants available based on income, and she knows of at least one that is not based on income. If parents suspect a child may be having learning difficulties or might be autistic, Eller said to put any pride and denial aside and to seek help.
“It’s hard for parents to advocate if they don’t know,” said Eller. “A lot of the parents are not educated on the subject enough to know what to ask for, so that’s why I started the support group.”
Anyone wanting to find out more information about the support group that Eller started or to seek help for a child suspected of being autistic can reach out to the school system or to Eller’s support group, White County Autism Support Group. Information on this group can be found on Facebook under the same name.