GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.,– April is Autism Awareness month, but for Zenia Bates it’s an effort that she carries on all year-long while she cares for her 8-year-old autistic son Evan.
“1 in 88 people have autism and 1 in 50 children, and that’s huge,” Bates told FOX 17 News. “It’s not just the typical ‘Rain Man’…That’s what I thought when Evan was first diagnosed.”
Bates said she knew something was different when Evan was just 10 months old. She noticed her son “regressing” and that his verbal communication had stopped. When Evan was two years old, she finally learned the reason why.
“They told me that he was cognitively impaired and that he had autism. I didn’t believe it actually.”
Bates said around the time of the diagnosis, she also began to dream about opening up a center to help other families dealing with autism. She’s created a non-profit called “Gideon Academic Center” and is working to secure a location in the Grand Rapids area.
Bates hopes the family based center will offer services such as autism diagnosis, sensory, occupational, recreational, speech and music therapy. She would also like to provide support services for parents and siblings such as counseling, advocacy training and peer mentoring.
“What I hope to accomplish is to continue autism awareness and a healing process, a healing for the family unit,” explained Bates. “I hope to accomplish the siblings and the parents getting treatment also. I think it’s important to open a center where you can get a referral and other services you need under one roof.”
Bates said she’d like to open the center in late 2013 or early 2014. Her 501(c)3 application for Gideon Academic Center is currently pending.
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