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April Declared Autism Awareness Month in Arkansas

Governor Mike Beebe signs proclamation.
LITTLE ROCK, AR - A day after a new report is released saying 1 in 68 children in the U.S. has an autism spectrum disorder, the State of Arkansas is doing more to raise awareness.

Governor Mike Beebe has declared April Autism Awareness Month in Arkansas.

Four-year-olds, Mary Allen and Cameron are at the State Capitol with their families and others who live with autism, as the governor signs the proclamation.

"It means a lot, since a lot of people don't understand what it means to have an autistic child, it can be hard, but it's awesome," says Anne Swint.

"Awareness is key, as far as research dollars, donor dollars, being able to work with the school system so we can identify and get the proper services for these children," explains Cecil Ennett.

One way of assisting children who are autistic is a new program for the state called the Autism Waiver. It's an early intervention program that Mary Allen's therapist says is free for families.

"The clients get 30 hours a week of intense therapy in their home, so we do speech, language, behavior," says Janet Godfrey, Therapist with Autism Waiver.

Parents say the Autism Waiver is the best thing that could have happened to their children.

"Before she never even knew you were talking to her, now you can tell her to go get your shoes, get your coat," Swint says.

"He reads on a second grade level, it's a lot of work, it's a marathon, not a sprint, but we've seen amazing improvement," says Ennett.

They both hope the best for their child's future.

"I hope he will be a good productive citizen and be independent," Ennett says.

"That she start kindergarten in a regular classroom," says Swint.

Governor Beebe also made April 2nd Autism Awareness Day.

The Autism Waiver program is a 3-year program and you must enroll your child before the age of seven. Talk to your pediatrician or child's school for more on the waiver program. The program is free.
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