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Autism in SMA: Finding Focus
Sunday, December 5

by Joyce Grenis, Board Secretary

His mother told me, "My son, Arturo's entire world is six words long... Mamá, Papá, agua, pan, sí, y no. He cannot tell his family what he wants. He cannot tell us that he loves us. He cannot share his stories and dreams. He is a child with autism.

This mother's child is a patient at the Therapy Center of Niños con Autismo de San Miguel de Allende, AC, and he joins 30 other children and young adults in our center each week for individual therapy sessions. Every situation is different, every child is different, and every therapy plan is different. The common thread in this diversity is that Niños con Autismo can help to improve the lives of these children and their families through evaluations and therapies.

"Arturo," which is not his real name, was diagnosed at the Therapy Center, when he was six. Six is a common age for diagnosis here in Mexico, but a very, very late diagnosis in Canada and the United States. Diagnoses in these countries are typically made between ages 18 months to two years. He has missed four years of therapy.

It wasn't a timely start, but he has progressed. He now has a vocabulary of over 50 words. Where before he would not even respond to his name, a hug, or a smile, now Arturo interacts with family and friends. His world is opening up. Now he has possibilities and opportunities in the future that his mother and father could not imagine when their son started with us.

Autism is not an illness or a disease. There is no vaccine to prevent it nor pill to cure it and despite a great deal of research, no one has found a cause. It is a neurological disorder that has been referred to as a "neurological storm" where the child or young adult has sensory overload and is unable to distinguish between the various sights, sounds, emotions, smells, etc. that are present at one time. They need to retreat into themselves. Autism is characterized by repetitive behavior, inability to communicate, and the inability to interact socially. These are not the only signs of autism, but they are the most common.

Niños con Autismo wants to see children as young as we can. Recent patients have joined us at 18 months and three years, which allows us to give them a head start in their therapy. The specific signs for autism in young children include:

· at 6 months, the child does not smile or make eye contact,
· at 9 months, the child has no interaction with others, including family,
· at 12 months, the child does not babble, respond to his name, or interact through gestures,
· at 16 months, the child does not say a single word,
· at 24 months, his vocabulary is very limited.

If you know a child who is having these types of difficulties, please let us know. The sooner therapy is started, the more successful the therapy will be in helping the child lead a more normal life. Payment for treatment is based on the economic circumstances of the family. Many pay little or nothing.

In addition to their connection to the local autistic community, some of our board members have a strong personal connection as well. Ádrian, the son of our president, Rocío Puig Morales, a local realtor with Keller Williams, was diagnosed when he was six months old. Today, 20 years later, Ádrian is in college, studying gastronomy. As with most parents of children with a diagnosis of autism, Rocío and her husband researched, read and attended seminars in addition to caring for the needs of two other children. Ádrian's is a story is a model of his parents' dedication to his development and his own personal courage and will to succeed. And he has a fabulous recipe for cheesecake that we will share at our event.

My nieces, my youngest sister's daughters, are both on the autistic spectrum. I have shared my sister's frustration and anguish as she spent hours trying to find help for her two girls. She worked hard to get the right diagnoses, medication, and therapy. As her daughters grew older, she searched for ways in which they could become more independent. Every step has been an enormous challenge, and many of those steps we walked together. I have been her sounding board, devil's advocate and her constant support. So, she was not alone. I feel enormous gratitude and hope as I watch my nieces grow and flourish.

The situation of these sisters is unusual for two reasons. First, it is rare to have two siblings with autism and second, they are both young women. Autism is significantly more common in boys, at a rate of 3 to 1 or even 4 to 1. Both sisters work in sheltered workshops where they have an opportunity to earn money to help support themselves, and the oldest lives quasi-independently with 3 other adults in an apartment with staff help. It is incredible to see these young women making a place for themselves in the world.

I invite you to join Arturo and his parents and Niños con Autismo in the joy of hope and the happiness of change. Arturo's parents now anticipate a better world for their son and, with your help, we anticipate a better world for all children with autism here in the San Miguel area.

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We can be reached via email at info@ninosconautismosma.org or 415.688.1755.

Please follow us on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Ninosconautismosma We also receive many referrals through our Facebook page so your support of our page (following and commenting) is important.

Please help.
We are currently soliciting donations from the community for desperately needed evaluation and educational materials, especially for our youngest patients.
Our donations page is: www.ninosconautismosma.org/Donations.

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Help Us Paint the Night Blue!

Mark your calendar for Sunday, December 5 at 7pm Join Niños con Autismo de San Miguel de Allende, AC for a virtual night of music and heart-felt stories, online at FaceBook Live.

Please follow us at www.facebook/ninosconautismosma.

The event is free of charge, but your donations are encouraged. They will help us buy much-needed evaluations and materials. Our patient roster has tripled in the last year despite the pandemic. Our patient age has changed dramatically. We are now seeing much younger children and their early diagnosis can make a tremendous difference in their lives and the lives of their families. The evaluations we need will help us make an even better. faster diagnoses.

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Niños con Autismo de San Miguel de Allende, A.C. or Children with Autism was started by a group of concerned parents here in SMA in 2014. Each of these parents had a child with autism but were not able to find appropriate professional services for their children. Their efforts grew until in 2019 when Niños acquired its own therapy center and hired its first Director with professional experience and training in autism. We continued evaluation and therapy services throughout the pandemic and have tripled the number of children that we serve. It is estimated that the San Miguel area is home to 400 to 500 children and young adults with autism.

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Joyce Grenis

My Life in Bullet Points or Here's What Made Me, Me:
• from Iowa with three rowdy, accomplished younger siblings,
• attended university where one dormitory held my entire town,
• arrived in the big city (Chicago) aghast at the unlimited opportunities on all fronts,
• raised two amazingly creative, caring and intelligent daughters and have enjoyed the antics of two equally creative, caring and intelligent grandsons,
• loved my 40 years of helping business owners understand how employees and the law had changed (daunting task),
• earned two degrees somewhere along the way,
• bought a house in San Miguel in 2006 and retired here in 2015,
 and last, but not least,
• enjoy life with a wonderful partner, exceptional travel buddy, and unstinting supporter. Thank you, Michael.

These bullets created the me that people see today, dedicated to giving back.

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