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Jessica Fleckenstein, Bismarck, letter: N.D. should learn more about autism

BISMARCK -- As a mother of a child with autism, I find myself educating and advocating on a daily basis, not only for my own child but also for all individuals with autism.

I believe that our community needs more awareness about what autism truly consists of.

Autism is a mysterious puzzle that does not have a medically known cause or cure. One in 110 children are diagnosed every day.

Early interventions such as speech, occupational and physical therapies as well as social/emotional settings can help individuals with autism increase their communication and social skills, improvements that will improve their daily interactions and activities.

Originally, we were told that my son may be nonverbal, which was completely devastating. My son has shown us all of his abilities as well as his strengths through his treatment plan of Early Intervention, current therapies and the dedication of his teachers and staff.

I believe North Dakota needs to be educated appropriately on what autism is and how it affects individuals and their families. With autism on the rise, parents need to be aware of the warning signs; and if there is a concern, they should talk to their child's doctor about autism and the screening process.

If a family has a strong support system and the proper education about autism, then their journey does not have to be so scary.

As a parent and a professional who works with children of all abilities, I have learned to focus on what their abilities are and not what their disability is. It is amazing to see how a child can grow and progress when the appropriate therapies and practices are used.

I believe that through educating and advocating, our society can remove stigmas.

April is National Autism Awareness Month. Please recognize that a child having a "fit" in a store may not be a spoiled brat whose parents can't handle them. In fact, this may be a child who is living with autism.

Jessica Fleckenstein