Our story, starts like most. Luke was born a healthy, happy baby in June of 1995. Luke hit all of his developmental milestones, and then one day after a severe reaction to his shots, he stopped talking. Coming to terms with the diagnosis of Autism was hard, but we loved our son and we did what every other parent does, grieve,get angry, accept, and move on. We researched everything we could get our hands on. Pretty soon, Autism was no longer the topic we all avoided. We signed Luke up for the Special Education Preschool, and Kid Power Therapy which offered combined speech and ot therapy. Before we knew it, Luke was talking again. He was fully included in the public school, and was actually doing very well.
Then, in 2004, at the age of 9, Luke started changing. He started developing vocal and large motor tics. Then he started hurting himself. He would bite big chunks of flesh out of the inside of his cheek. Then the seizures started, and before we knew it, Luke was turning violent on us. The doctors tried to help, but they did not live with it 24/7. So on March 4, 2005, Greg, my sister Berta, and I, along with a friend Heather Gibson, hosted the first Families with ASD Support Group Meeting. There were only 7 families that attended our first meeting, and that included our family and friend. By October of 2005, our membership had grown to over 50 families. We did not want to turn families away, and we did not want to charge families for our meetings. So, we began the paperwork on becoming a non-profit organization. In February, 2006 the IRS recognized us as a 501 (c) (3) public charity.
Today, Luke is 17 years old and has many diagnosis: Autism, Epilepsy, OCD, and Auto-Immune Disease. Our group has grown to over 500 families, and we are still growing. You can check out our Facebook Page, and our on-line Families with ASD Yahoo support group that has over 580 families and growing. When Luke was diagnosed in 1998 the rate of Autism was 1 in every 10,000. Today, the rate is 1 in every 88 children will be diagnosed on the spectrum. No wonder our group is growing! Our group is open to anyone touched by Autism. Our meetings are always family centered and free. Our youngest children, Joel, Tyler and Ashley have made many friends and now know they are not the only one that has a sibling with autism. With Luke's recent medical and behavioral challenges, this group has been a saving grace for our family. We hope that your family will join us soon!
Julia Ann & Gregory Smith
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