By Carolyn Bahm
Autistic children may relate to the world differently, but they understand the joys of Christmas. Their presents will stack a little higher under the tree with help from a Bartlett nonprofit autism center.
Transformations Autism Treatment Center in Bartlett is hosting an angel tree and inviting people to sponsor an “autistic angel” this year. Each child’s parent or guardian can post a wish list on the tree for up to three presents.
The angel tree is open to any family whose child is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), not just the center’s clients. Although the angel tree focuses on children, there is no age limit on who can receive the gifts, said Ty Thompson, Transformations director of development. “We just want to be the link between people who have autism and people who want to help.”
Transformations is a one-on-one Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) facility, currently treating more than 50 clients from the greater Mid-South area.
Their clients have a range of autism spectrum disorders that affect behavior, social skills, and communication abilities. Autism is a developmental disorder and affects an estimated 1 in 88 children. Boys are more than four times more likely to be affected (1 in 54) vs. girls (1 in 252).
Parents like Valerie Riddle of Cordova have found that the early intervention helps their children adapt and flourish.
Her daughter, Rylee, is three years old and has been attending the center since this spring. Having an autistic daughter is a great joy, she said, but it does come with challenges. Communication problems lead to frustrations and temper tantrums, but the treatment program has helped.
“It’s made a world of difference,” Riddle said. “Her behavior is getting so much better, and she’s making a lot more different sounds.”
She particularly appreciates the angel tree.
“I think it’s wonderful,” Riddle said. “So many insurance companies don’t cover the therapies, and a lot of money goes into that. So it’s nice to have the extra help at Christmas.”