Giving Autism a Voice

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Giving Autism A Voice

By Ela Schwartz, Courtesy of the Long Island Press and is used by permission.

Oyster Bay resident Evelyn Ain's story is similar to those told by many parents who become well-acquainted with autism. Her son Matthew was a normal toddler, babbling, smiling and drinking out of a cup. When he was about 10 months old, he stopped talking and began withdrawing.

"He looked like he was in a fog," says Ain. "It got to the point where a stranger couldn't come into the house without Matthew freaking out."

Her son's pediatrician found nothing wrong. His neurologist measured Matthew's head and checked his reflexes. Evaluators sent by the Nassau County Health Department's Early Intervention Program said he might be "a little autistic," Ain says.

Neurologists told her they refused to diagnose autism before the age of 2, but Ain was determined to resolve once and for all whether or not Matthew had the disorder. She brought her son, then 18 months old, to the Kendell Speech and Language Center in Kendell, Fla., to be evaluated by a speech/language pathologist board-certified in behavioral analysis.

The Center confirmed Ain's suspicions and diagnosed Matthew with autism.

"I died right there," she says. "But I was able to come back to Long Island and get him the services he needed."

Concluding that many parents were looking for answers, support and empowerment, she launched Spectrum Magazine for Parents of Children With Autism and Developmental Disabilities in 2004. The magazine is now national, with a circulation of 60,000.

"Spectrum is a way to bring families together on a larger level and provide a community," Ain says. "Autism is nothing to be embarrassed about. Our families just have different lifestyles. We choose schools differently, travel differently, live differently."

In April this year, the magazine shed a spotlight on its national debut at the Garden City Hotel. Guests at the gala included Anthony Edwards, formerly of ER, and Assemb. Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach), who received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

The publication has grown by leaps and bounds already: What began as a three-person operation in 2004 now employs about 25 people across the country. Ain looks forward to the magazine's continued growth.

"I'd love to see Spectrum go international and have a Spanish-language edition to reach Latin American communities," she says.

Cris Italia, editor-in-chief of Spectrum, says the magazine's mission is not just to keep parents of autistic children abreast of research and treatments. It's also to spark ideas about fun activities these parents can enjoy with their autistic youngsters. "We don't want to be all gloom and doom," Italia says. "We write about trips to take and games to play. We provide hope."

-Michele Pepe contributed to this story.

Courtesy of the Long Island Press and is used by permission.

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