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Autism Conference Offers Help, Hope

Autism Conference Offers Help, Hope

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Coco Warner ReportingWith diagnosed cases of autism at an all time high, Valley Mental Health sees its third annual Autism Research Conference as crucial, especially for parents who are looking for help and hope.

The Center for Disease Control now says the chance of a child being affected by autism is one in 166; studies show the condition is far more widespread than was once believed. That's why organizers of this year's conference believe it's important to better educate the public and share the very latest research and information with teachers, physicians, and parents.

Story time aimed at young children can be a challenge under the best of circumstances, now add autism. But teachers at the Carmen B. Pingree School for Children with Autism are up for the challenge. They're also up for this weekend's conference, which is showcasing new research.

Pete Nicholas, Ph. D., Director of Pingree School: "And we try to bring in guest speakers who can add to that vast knowledge out there that's growing, and give hope to our parents that this is on-going research that someday we'll turn the corner and help their children, their families immensely."

Today conference topics cover picture exchange communication-- a practice that helps autistic children learn how to better express themselves-- and how parents can help their other children better handle their autistic sibling.

Anna Roumpos, Social Worker: “We’re going to be talking about family concerns with sibling issues, different things they worry about.”

For Cheryl Smith and her six-year old autistic son Carson, sometimes her biggest concern is getting through the day.

Cheryl Smith, Mother of Autistic Boy: “He can’t dress himself or eat with a fork. He’s not potty trained. We can’t leave him alone, even to change the laundry in my basement, because I don’t know what he’ll do.”

And for families like the Smiths, a conference like this means more information, and more information can mean more hope.

Cheryl Smith, Mother of Autistic Boy: "Because I want to learn as much as I can. I've read every book, and every time they have something it seems like they change or they find out something new or there's more hope and more progress."

The conference is being held at the Carmen B. Pingree School in Salt Lake City. It resumes tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m.-- guest speakers will address new research on drug therapy and autism and joint attention and symbolic play. The public is welcome.

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