La Crosse, WI (WXOW) --- Autism is a brain problem that can make it hard for kids to communicate and although there is no cure there is hope. New approaches and new therapies that are proving effective like the Child Youth Care Autism Mentorship Program or C.A.M.P that uses the skill set of students from UW-L's Psychology Program and the expertise of Chileda.
You've heard the term it takes a village. That philosophy is in play in the case of this energetic two and a half year old. Simon has Autism. He doesn't speak. Atleast in the traditional way most kids do. He's high energy. Imagine the terrible two's times two. Only Simon isn't terrible he's quite charming.
Intense play is a new form of therapy being tried out on kids like Simon. Typical therapy sessions minus the play cost about 50 dollars an hour but his two mentors students from the University of La Crosse's C.A.M.P program or Child Youth Autism Mentorship Program do it all for free.
Lyanna Opitz says "my stepdad babysitts and he's older and has health issues so he babysitts him but he's not able to do that intense play or he can but only for really short periods of time where Kristen and Ryan come for two hours at a time."
Ryan and Kirsten work on speech, non-verbal communication and give Simon a run for his money. Ryan says "he has a ton of energy. We learned in class that it's hard for the parents because they have to give so much attention to Simon but when we're here they can go do other things, go to lunch or something. And just by us being here we can provide some reinforcement. We love it."
So do the parents.......like Callie Reuteman, who came up with the idea. Her son is now 13 but she says she feels for parents trying to figure it all out. "No one wanted to give us any answers because if let's say a daycare provider finally sits him down with the rings and shows him how to do it after that, he got it. But if you put them together he'd watch you do it but he couldn't mimic you."
And just when you think you've seen it all yet another glimmer of hope for the "village" caring for Simon.
Yesterday we were here and he made a different noise which in most cases when I babysitt other kids I would never think a new noise is something special but he said ha ha and we both looked at each other like "oh my goodness," said Kirsten, Simon's other mentor from UW-L.
1 in 110 children are diagnosed with Autism and everyone of them have a chance for a "normal" life whatever that means because of programs like C.A.M.P.
Simon is getting an IPAD from county program, "Birth to 3" that will have apps to help Simon communicate.
The program serves 15 families in the area and the service is free of charge.
For more information contact Lisa Caya at 608 785-6895.
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