NHS Autism Center opening in Baton Rouge

NHS Autism Center opening in Baton Rouge

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Tia Williams-Edwards is the mother of twin boys, Blaine and Bryce, born prematurely and soon diagnosed with autism.

"They were fighters from the very beginning," Williams-Edwards said.

The three have busy lives, as the teens continue to learn how to function with autism. Williams-Edwards explained that children with autism are described on different levels on a spectrum.

"Bryce is my higher functioning. My other twin (Blaine) is on the opposite end of the spectrum. He is more nonverbal and requires a significant amount of resources and care," Williams-Edwards added.

Both are now in the ninth grade at Woodlawn High School. Bryce attends regular classes, while Blaine is in a classroom that focuses on autism and learning life skills.

To make sure Blaine and others can function as adults, extra therapy after school at another location is critical for both brothers. The focus for Bryce is interacting with peers. For Blaine, it's different.

"He, like his brother, receives the applied behavior analysis. So, we get that outside of the school. His is very intensive. We go just about every day," Williams-Edwards explained.

Things would be easier if they could go somewhere else for the extra therapy. That's where the new, yet to open, NHS Autism Center comes in. It is a third party resource for kids living with this challenge.

According to the NSH Autism Center, offered services will be, "a special education school for students ages 5-21, ABA (applied behavioral analysis) and specialized therapy services, and a kindergarten readiness program for children ages 3-5 called 'Bee Me.'"

"The occupational, the speech, the ABA and everything; under one roof in addition to the community based and vocational just seems like heaven on earth," Williams- Edwards stated.

Karen Markle, NSH Executive Vice President for Education and Autism Services, said an estimated 2,300 kids in the area under the age of 13 are living with autism.

"Many of them are accessing services that are available in their local community," Markle said. "Most of those services are provided to an array of individuals. And so, there's simply just not enough resources. As a needs assessment study, when you look at the community, being able to fill every aspect of a continuum is something that takes an entire team of providers to do and we're hoping to be a part of that team puzzle."

Williams-Edwards also said this resource is not only a big win for the community, it's a step towards a better life for her boys.

"There is not enough out here that we can say right now that we don't want any other partner coming into our city, into our state, to help us in providing services. There are so many of our parents and young people that go wanting every day," she stated.

The center is scheduled to open in March.

For more information on the NHS Autism Center, visit www.nhsonline.org, or email NHScapitalregion@nhsonline.org.

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