RHINELANDER - In April we recognize World Autism Awareness Month. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says 1 in every 50 children is affected. This disorder presents a unique challenge for each family. For those of us North of highway 64-- it can be more of a struggle.
"It's a long way to go to find another parent to come into the school district, to find a support group. So I think you'll find a scarcity of services up here," said Robin Mathea, Director of Parent-to-Parent of Wisconsin.
Families with children on the moderate to severe side of the Autism Spectrum usually need help. Autism can be exhausting for caregivers, but that's only part of what they have to deal with.
"Often times people don't understand unless they've walked in your shoes, and that's a really hard stigma to get past for families. Your child's misbehaving in the grocery store, and somebody next to you has a child that's just so appropriate and they're looking and thinking, whoa, you're a bad parent because you haven't been able to get your child to behave, but yet you may be having a really successful time in the grocery store because you've at least gotten this far with them," said Mathea.
People on the Autism Spectrum are all unique. This can make it very difficult to find appropriate child care. Mathea says she often hears parents say they had to quit their jobs because there was no one else to take care of their child.
A huge spike in the number of children with autism has some calling this an epidemic. But there are also questions of whether more children DO have the disorder, or are just being diagnosed. Mathea says an early diagnosis can make a huge difference.
"I think we're so much savvier at diagnosing. And with early intervention we get our best outcomes, so why not?"
Below are links to groups that can help parents and kids with autism and other emotional and behavioral disorders.
MINOCQUA - By the time most of us finish breakfast, we already start planning what to eat for lunch.
For some kids all around the world, that next meal sometimes never comes.
The Food for Kidz Minocqua committee will lend a helping hand to change that Saturday morning.
Lakeland Union High School's common area will transform into a full-blown assembly line.
Food for Kidz volunteers will pour and pack ingredients into plastic bags.
The goal is 175,000 packed meals.
Food for Kidz needs more volunteers by tomorrow to meet that goal.
"If you haven't experienced this, come out and try it and you'll go away with just a great feeling," said Food for Kidz co-chair John Breiten.
Kids and adults of all ages are welcome to walk in to volunteer.
The food packages will be shipped off to anywhere from Honduras to Mozambique.
Some special meals will be set aside and sent to local communities in the Northwoods.
"It's just a great, fun community event. I think the kids especially take something away that they are giving beyond themselves," said Food for Kidz sponsor and Lakeland Union High School Spanish teacher Karen Roerich.
Walk-in volunteers are welcome to attend either packing shift tomorrow morning.
The first shift is from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. The second shift is from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
If you can't make it out to Lakeland Union High School Saturday, donations are always welcome.
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