Is Autism Different in a Small Town?
I’ve lived in the Los Angeles area for twenty-eight years now. Over half my life.
I had my child when I was thirty-six.
A year and change later, we were taking him to a regional center for evaluation for autism.
We received services soon after, and off we went.
Again, this is in the Los Angeles area, a huge city that’s quite spread out. I think this area has three or four regional centers to cover it. (In the State of California, Regional Centers provide services to our kids on the autism spectrum. They are available everywhere in the state. However, in less populated areas of the state, there may be only one regional center covering a very large area.)
How would services be different in a small town?
I’ve done a little research on this topic, but (again) I do not have this experience. Yet, I have been able to piece together the challenges of raising a child on the autism spectrum when you don’t live in a big city.
The lack of services in or around small town is glaring.
In some small towns, they don’t exist at all. One case I read about, there is no person trained in ABA therapy within 100 miles.
Why is this? Those folks who make their living providing ABA services, don’t make that much that…It simply is not feasible for them to drive 50 for a 30 minute therapy session.
It simple a matter of the professionals who provide services have to live in more densely populated areas. They usually work for facilities, and that’s where those businesses reside.
This means that getting any kind of early diagnosis for a child is probably very challenging.
I read about a case where parents of a severe child can’t ever go out on a “date night,” because they can’t find a suitably-trained a respite person.
In small towns, smaller class sizes do sometimes happen. But, those other kids may not be familiar with a child on the spectrum. And, that child may “stick out of the crowd” even more.
Aides for that child in a classroom setting may not be available.
Teachers may not have any training or education in autism. When things happen (a meltdown, for example) they have no idea what to do.
One family I read about decided that two things worked for their four-year-old child. One was a child that only that child used and was her “calming place.” The other thing was using simple commands along with pictures. A photo of the chair and a “sit” and the child will sit down.
From what I’ve learned, it seems like parents and schools have to (more or less) try to remain on the same page even more so. If something works for that child, they have to stick with it.
What did I learn?
Obviously, there are more opportunities for services for a child on the autism spectrum if you live in a city or near one.
It’s most likely a difficult decision for parents, they may love where they live. They may have chosen a small town because that’s where they’re most comfortable.
But, when it comes to their child, they may have to move closer to where the services are located.
I don’t envy parents who are in this situation.
Is Autism Different in a Small Town? I’d say, yes. More challenging, definitely. It appears that in many cases this situation is strife with less ways to help your child and more stress on parents.
What’s the solution? Not sure. I have met parents who moved to our area for their child. But, that answer may not be the answer for everyone.
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