Autism services hard to find

utism is the fastest growing developmental disorder in the U.S. today. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that one in 150 children born in the U.S. has autism. An estimated one million people in the U.S. have the disorder. And there's no cure. There are also limited resources for parents dealing with children with the disorder. But there's a new local center trying to help.

The number of children diagnosed with autism continues to grow so much so that some say there's an epidemic. And finding the help necessary is a challenge. Tracey Churchman recently found out that her five year old son Collin has autism. "People think that services are widely available for children that have been diagnosed with autistic or any of the things that fall under the spectrum, but they really are not. And they're not covered by insurance, so, you're faced with trying to help your child be successful and use all the tools available and face it financially," says Churchman.

She came here to this training workshop sponsored by the recently formed St. Nicholas Center for early intervention in Lake Charles. It's a workshop on what's called applied behavior analysis with experts from Boston. Susan Nicholson says applied behavior analysis can help children with autism learn skills faster.  "We teach skills by breaking them down into small steps and then using reinforcement to increase a child's response in those skills. So, we look at teaching communication, language, play, social skills, the ability to go into a classroom setting with support or eventually without."

She says when choosing services use what research supports. The idea is to make a difference in the lives of children and to help those like Collin reach their potential. Tracey has encouraging words for other parents.  "Stay positive and just keep looking. It takes a lot of calls, research, investigation, but you can find tools, find other things to help you. There's a lot of parents out there if you just ask."

Experts agree early diagnosis and intervention mean a better outcome for children with autism and related disorders. The St. Nicholas Center serves children ages two to six. For more information on the saint Nicholas Center for early intervention click here.