Carrie Netherton, 918moms.com
TULSA, Oklahoma -- April is Autism Awareness Month and parents of children with autism want other people to know how to see the signs of the disorder. Autism spectrum disorders affect an estimated 1 in 150 children.
Like many kids his age, Asher Grayson loves to play with toys.
"He's a ham," Kim Grayson, Asher's mother, said laughing. "He's very happy and hyper."
But this isn't just play time, it's therapy. Asher is 7 years old, but his social skills are at an age 3 to 4 level. His mother, Kim, noticed something was wrong when he was 18 months old.
"I noticed he wasn't talking like all of the other friends who had kids around the same age," she said.
Kim took Asher to get tested and doctors determined he autism, a neurodevelopment disorder.
Autism spectrum disorders affect an individual's behavior, social and communication skills. Just a few of the behaviors associated with this include not wanting to communicate, repetitively stacking or lining up objects and obsessing with activities and doing them repeatedly during the day.
No two children with ASD have the same symptoms.
"I, looking back, looking when he was very, very young, hard to make him laugh, not talking, not wanting to interact with other kids," Kim said.
Asher works on his social skills through "play."
"They learn all their social interaction and how to make decisions and all that through play," said Suzanne Broyles, a registered play therapist. "All their coping skills, how to deal with things, how to deal with frustrations, how to calm down."
Some of the toys in the "play room" are missing parts or broken, on purpose.
"So instead of having outburst, he'll learn okay this is another way of asking for things or not getting upset, so kinda exploring," Kim said.
Kim wants parent to know that if they notice signs of autism in their child, get them tested immediately because then they can start coming to rooms like this and start getting therapy.
"So if I can get a kid early, we're going to make more progress, have more time to make more progress so don't hold back," Suzanne said.
Kim already notices positive changes in Asher and hopes more research will find more answers to help more families.
Researchers are still trying to determine what causes autism.
Fundraisers are planned through the month of April to help fund this research. For a list of the activities, including a fashion show and a fundraiser at Panera Bread Company, go to 918moms.com.
Another fundraiser, actBIG for Autism, will benefit the Autism Center of Tulsa. The event, which is a live and silent auction and wine pull, will be held on April 14, 2011, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Harwelden Mansion.
Some of the items up for auction include private flying lessons courtesy of Blue Sky Tulsa, a Tiffany's broach courtesy of Tulsa Gold and Gems, sushi lessons and dinner for 10 courtesy of In the Raw and Pohlenz Cucine Moderne, and many more.
Tickets to the event can be purchase at actbig.org or by calling 918-749-5206.