Prestonsburg autism center works to protect kids in emergencies

By: Morgan Lentes Email
By: Morgan Lentes Email
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PRESTONSBURG, Ky (WYMT) - A recent survey found almost half of respondents with autistic kids had a child wander off at least once.

It is a startling statistic made even more real when news broke that an autistic boy went missing in New York.

In Eastern Kentucky there is a center in Prestonsburg that specializes in caring for these kids by taking an individualized approach.

The saying goes, 'if you know one person with autism, you know exactly one person with autism'.

At the Highlands Center for Autism, representative Maxanna Cook said that is because no two cases are alike.

"You see a snowflake and they are all snowflakes, but they are all unique in their own pattern. It is not quite as simple as people used to think about just saying, 'Well the child has A, B, C, they definitely have autism'," said Cook.

And it is those differences that can often make their behavior hard to predict.

"They cannot, maybe go and have a meal at a restaurant, cannot take a family picture because they will not look at the camera and smile. They cannot say 'I love you'," said Cook.

But sometimes the problem is even more serious.

Cook said children suffering from autism often have a hard time doing things that most people take for granted, like responding when spoken or being spoken to.

She said in an emergency situation that can be dangerous.

"If they were lost, and you had mentioned if someone was calling their name, and they do not come to them and that is what we work with at this center. We do things like work on their verbal communication," said Cook.

She added that is the center's specialty.

"We are working with the parents and the child, so that the child has the communication skills so that if they were lost they could say their name, their address, their, you know, home phone or something like that or that the parent keeps a close eye on them," said Cook.

Right now, there are about 10 kids at the center.

Cook said while the staff tries to keep the number of children using the center at one time relatively low, they are always willing to meet new kids, who need help.

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