It's estimated that the number of families with children diagnosed with autism has increased 78-percent over the last decade. Our Amanda Kelley takes a look at what small steps North Country families are taking to battle back against this disorder.
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. -- For Maria Higuera communicating with her six-year old autistic son Marcos used to be a challenge.
Higurea said, "I would take him to a doctor and they would say he's a boy, it's normal, it's typical for them to start speaking when they get older."
But as time went on, she knew something just wasn't right. After numerous doctors appointments and therapy sessions, she found out her son was autistic at age four. "It was hard for him, but within a month, all of the therapy that he got from school he was able to talk, he started saying his numbers, his letters, and as soon as he got the help he was just blossoming," said Higuera.
According to the CDC the number of children battling autism is higher than ever. One out of every 88 US children are battling this condition. Many experts say the key to helping autistic children is early intervention.
Families for the Effective Treatment of Autism of the North Country board member Jaci Barnett said, "There are treatments as long as you start early enough in life. Early intervention is the main key. With speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, working one-on one with the children when they're little really helps to bring their speech abilities to life."
With the number of children diagnosed with autism on the rise, families say awareness walks like this one in Watertown are more important than ever.
Barnett said, "It's a great way to network to the other families that have the same problems. To meet friends, to be able to plan play-dates with their children because it's hard to do that with typical kids and our children because they don't always get along because of their behaviors."
Many families said they find comfort in knowing there's other families right in their community that share the same struggles. But they also are able to share their victories over autism as well.
Higuera said, "Seeing some of the children that have already been with FEAT for two years just seeing them blossom every time I see them they're just getting better with all of the help they're getting. And for me that's very exciting."
For more information on organizations that help support families battling autism you can reach out to Jaci Barnett with FEAT of the North Country at 315-408-9965, visit their Facebook Page, or contact Benchmark Family Services at (315) 786-7285.