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April 10, 2013

Finding support

Local group offers haven for those with autism

A Logansport mother and son shared their experiences with autism and offered advice to those who have loved ones with the disorder at the Logansport Autism Support Group Tuesday night.

Jan Fawley and her husband Ron are the parents of two sons with autism, 25-year-old Sam and 22-year-old Ben. The brothers were both diagnosed with autism at young ages, Jan Fawley told the support group of about 13 people, after they both exhibited behavior that motivated their parents to seek medical expertise. Sam wasn’t getting on in daycare. Ben had strayed from their home on two occasions, one time at 18 months old when his parents found him four blocks away in someone’s wading pool.

Both Sam and Ben share similarities in the way autism affects them. They are both sensitive to loud sounds like thunder and fire alarms. They are also both artistic, with Sam’s interests lying in music and film while Ben enjoys drawing.

Differences exist in the ways the disorder affects the two brothers as well. Jan said Sam is more adventurous with food whereas Ben rarely strays from pizza and hamburgers. Sam desires to be independent while Ben has says he’s fine at home. Jan said Sam also differs from his brother in that he is very literal, while Ben is not.

Jan and Sam shared stories of how Sam has come to cope with autism at the meeting as well. They said he has found support from behavior modification in his youth, which included rewards like hiking outings, visits to the Grissom Air Museum or a new toy.

“Of course, the toys I like now are vinyl records,” Sam Fawley said.

“And they’re a lot more expensive,” Jan Fawley said, drawing a laugh from the others.

Jan Fawley also spoke of the importance of medications to the support group, which she said many parents are reluctant to explore.

“Don’t feel like you’re a bad person,” Fawley said, adding that side effects forced her to try different kinds, but was happy to say that now neither of her sons take medication for autism.

The importance of developing a routine as being beneficial for people with autism was discussed as well. Sam Fawley said he felt he was the only kid in school who didn’t like school closings, as they would throw off his routine.

Swimming has also been a big part of Sam Fawley’s life and how he has coped with autism. He won a gold medal along with the rest of his team in a relay at the Special Olympics in 2010. He formerly swam for the Logansport High School Berries swim team as well.

“Back in the old days, kids with disabilities didn’t get to participate in any activities,” he said.

He went on to say he felt the competition is not only beneficial for people with disabilities, but for those without as well.

“It’s changed peoples’ perspectives,” he said.

Linda Klinck, director of development and communications at Peak Community Services, said the support group has been meeting for the last six to eight months and is hosted by the Autism Society of Indiana. The group meets at 6:30 p.m. the second Tuesday of every month at Peak Community Services, 1416 Woodlawn Ave.

“I see it’s a need,” she said. “I hope by having this support group, it will help families explore options.”

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or mitchell.kirk@pharostribune.com.

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