Wildwood Resident Speaks Out for Autism Care, Awareness
PART 1: Jeanne Marshall, vice president of Life Skills/TouchPoint Autism Services, brings the awareness of Autism to life. Autism impacts 1 in 72 children in Missouri.
Autism impacts 1 in 88 children. In Missouri, it is more like 1 in 72. Boys are four times more likely to suffer from Autism than girls. In July 1, 2012 Life Skills, a social service agency serving Autistic needs throughout the state with some 1,300 employees merged with TouchPoint Autism Services. They work together on Corporate Square Drive in Creve Coeur.
Both staffs work in consort to deal with this insideous affliction.
The agency focuses its resources and attention on
- independent support living
- employee services
Wildwood resident Jeanne Marshall, M.Ed, MA, BCBA, LBA, vice president of Life Skills/TouchPoint Autism Services is passionate about dealing with Autism. She has devoted a lifetime to professional care. Patch took some of her time for an in-depth interview:
Ladue-Frontenac Patch: Jeanne Marshall, welcome to Patch.com. We hope to learn something about the care and services of Autism today.
Jeanne Marshall: We have been serving the community since 1961. I come from the TouchPoint side of the services.
Patch: How did the merger of the agencies come about.
Marshall: In our (TouchPoint) strategic plans, we had been looking for a partnership to help improve the state of what we are doing. We were looking at the number of kids who were coming out of high school and reaching adult age though out the state of Missouri. We were looking for a little more infrastructure and support in that area and Life Skills was seeing a marked increase in a number of referrals. It was a combination that worked out beautifully at the time.
Patch: Do individuals diagnosed with Autism expect to lead a normal life span.
Marshall: They do unless there are other issues. There is no life expectancy reduction at all.
Patch: There seems to be much more awareness of Autism the past 10 to 15 years.
Marshall: Prior to 15 years ago, there was little funding in the realm of Autism. However with the genome projects, doing with brain research and I can’t imagine what we are going to know about the causes in the next 10 years.
Patch: The ability to communicate seems to severely impact some of those with Autism.
Marshall: The way it manifests in terms of diagnosis communications is severely impacted. Not every person with Autism will do X, Y, or Z. Every case is different.
In many cases there are reduction in language, social skills, communications, you may see an impact on their academic skills. Going back to school is a big transition for many of our patients.
Those with severe levels of Autism may need very high levels of support. Just like the movie “The Rain Man,” you are going to recognize something is going on right away.
However, you have very high levels of people functioning at the other end of the spectrum like Aspergers.They are married, they have kids and they have jobs. Those who do well often are the kids who got lots of early intervention. Sometimes they seem a little quirky. They may struggle with a lack of social skills or social interactions.
Patch: How do get the word out.
Marshall. One of our spokesman is Aaron Likens. He is a high level performing employee who has a diagnosis of Aspergers. Any way shape of form that we can get him out there to tell his story, that’s what we are doing. He gets a great reaction from the parents, the teachers and the kids. I’ve seen him speak at least 25 times. After he speaks, usually the teachers are coming up and they are crying and say to him if I had known what I have been doing I would have done things differently the last 50 years.
Parents say he’s just explained what I always wondered about my kid. Aaron through his writing (books, blog) has found that vehicle. Sometimes I will have a conversation with him in the hallway and it can be awkward and he feels uncomfortable and he’s not in his comfort zone. When he does something he loves, like writing, he’s a totally different person.
The questions the kids ask of him are very determining to them. They want to know they are not just a freak. You can see the relief on these kids faces. They realize there is something else for them.
Next, in part 2 on Patch, Marshall goes into details about maintsreaming as many students as possible.