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Autism News Round-Up: Looking at Local Efforts to Help Children and Families

Following a week in which news outlets and specialty groups were still dealing with the fallout from the monumental British study that individuals with autism are actually more predisposed to producing original, creative thoughts and ideas, we’ve decided to go from the national and international level of autism-related news to look at some of the many efforts being made in communities across the country to raise awareness about autism and to help those members of the community who might sometimes be overlooked.

Starting things on a furry note, as we’ve documented extensively in the space, pets can serve a remarkable role in helping in the development of a child with autism’s social skills while also helping them to form a close bond. While dogs have traditionally been seen as the most effective animal in therapy for children with autism, a new program in Tucson, AZ called Purrs For Autism that seeks to form strong bonds between cats and children that will prove to be both educational and calming.

Purrs for Autism is a new partnership between the Autism Society of Southern Arizona and Hermitage No Kill Cat Shelter. The new program will bring together children living with autism and the shelter’s most sociable and loving cats. The founders behind the program hope that the success of their efforts will result in similar programs popping up across the country.

Elsewhere, in Muncie, India, families with children with autism are now receiving more of the help they need. The Indiana ABA Clinic, which provides Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy to children with autism recently moved to a new location and expanded its services to offer ABA therapy and support groups to parents of children with autism who previously were out of reach of such services.

The expansion of services is largely due to the work of Belinda Hughes, a mother of a 14-year-old with autism who, upon learning of his diagnosis, was told that ABA therapy might be the most beneficial for her son’s development. However, at the time of his diagnosis, no such service existed in Muncie or its surrounding areas. Hughes went on to form Interlock, a support group for parents of children with autism, and soon went on to earn master’s degree in special education and ABA from Ball State University before finding the clinic. Today, the clinic now has 22 employees and is equipped to serve up to 30 families in need.

Finally, we reported a few weeks back about the efforts being made by some Michigan legislators to legalize the use of marijuana concentrates and oils in children with autism. Led by the mother of a son with autism, Lisa Smith, the movement had been gaining steam over the past three years, recently gaining the approval of a state panel, who made the formal proposal to Michigan governor Rick Snyder, whose top state regulator officially rejected the proposal this past week. It is reported Smith and her family now plan to leave the state.