It is ironic that during Autism Awareness Month, your recent coverage (BDN, Jan. 6) of a dispute between a Bangor family with an autistic child and the Bangor school system focuses on the financial and conflictual aspects of the case, but misses both the human and long-term societal values that are involved.
Autism is a neurologically based disorder now ranked as the third most common developmental disability. While autistic children differ vastly in terms of symptoms and severity, one trait they do share is a natural bent toward internal stimulation (for example, if left to their own devices, an autistic child would often choose a stereotyped or repetitive behavior versus interacting with a new toy). Autistic children need a lot of guidance in being able to enter the world around them, including individual assistance with regards to learning and socialization. With intensive and ongoing intervention, autistic children can make great strides away from their internal world and actually become interested in learning about their environment. If they do this, they are more likely to become happy and productive citizens in our society.
If the members of the Bangor School Board who were quoted cannot get beyond seeing their autistic student’s needs as a nuisance, then perhaps they can begin to appreciate that, if they invest in this child today, she will be more likely to succeed in later years of school and beyond.
For anyone interested in more information about autism, contact the Autism Society of Maine at 1-800-273-5200. Rick and Dixie Redmond Hampden