EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

December 16, 2013

Letter: Lawrence needs programs for autistic children

To the editor:

The City of Lawrence has many programs for children to go to after school and during vacation -- the Boys and Girls Club, YMCA, YWCA, etc. These programs allow children to enjoy some extracurricular activities, make friends, get help with homework and maybe even join a sports team.

Unfortunately there are not that many programs for children with disabilities, especially for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autism is a fast-growing developmental disorder. Statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention via the Autism Speaks website show that one in 88 children is diagnosed with ASD and over two million individuals in the United States and tens of millions worldwide are affected.

Children with ASD have problems with communication, social skills and behavior. Even though ASD is a fast-growing disorder, not one child presents with the same symptoms as another. A program would need trained and qualified staff members to be able to work with these children. As a parent of a child with autism, I have found it very difficult or impossible to place my child in a program with the qualified staff members he needs.

Lawrence needs a program, not only in the public school but also outside the schools, to serve these children and their families. With such a program, these children can receive the services they need, be able to make friends and be part of the community. These children may think and see the world differently, but they should be able to have the same opportunities as every other child.

I believe with the support of the community a program like this can be realized. I am asking for the City of Lawrence to come together in support of all the children and families of Lawrence that need the support of a program like this. Children are the future and they should all have the best opportunities to succeed in life. Let us come together for our children.

Janitta Alvarez

Lawrence

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