Autism Awareness MonthFree Access

April marks Autism Awareness Month throughout the nation. It was 1970 when the Autism Society began a nationwide awareness campaign.

The Pleasanton Express began a series on autism back in February. The last article that ran in the series featured Markus Rios and Ethan Ray Pacheco. This week we will continue with more about the youngsters and their families.

Markus is the son of Jolene Rios and Stephen Rios. Ethan is the son of Misty Rae Ramos and grandson of Norma Ramos.

According to the Autism Society, Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disability. Signs typically appear during early childhood and affect a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others.

Here are some signs to look for in your child, courtesy of the Autism Society: •Lack of or delay in spoken language

•Repetitive use of language and/or motor mannerisms (e.g., hand-flapping, twirling objects)

•Little or no eye contact

•Lack of interest in peer relationships

•Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play

•Persistent fixation on parts of objects Ethan’s mother shared a letter expressing the importance of raising awareness.

“First and foremost, no two autistic children or adults are exactly alike. Each individual represents their very own unique abilities,” wrote Misty Rae Ramos.

She said her goal is to simply bring awareness to all those in the community.

“As our children will be growing up here, being productive citizens who deserve all the same love and respect we all deserve and expect,” Misty said.

She continued by saying that parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, extended family and teachers, therapists and doctors all want to show how extremely important it is to see everyone with autism with an open mind, get to know them.

“We promise, they are not so different. To the law enforcement and firefighers as well as first responders, we ask that you do your best (as you always do) to research and train all personnel how to spot signs and be able to react accordingly without escalating the situation. There are many sensory issues associated that could be as minor as a proximity type issue or as severe as literal touching can be excruciating to an autistic person. Some are even completely non-verbal. Some experience physical pain just trying to give eye contact. We want to be able to work with everyone in order to ensure our safety for our children, our community and our law enforcement,” ended Ramos.

Markus’ parents and Ethan’s grandmother also explained how those with autism can experience sensory overload. In other words, their surroundings can cause them much stress, pain and anxiety in situations that others might not understand.

For example, Norma shared how she bought Ethan a tent as a Christmas present.

“I fixed it for him. We were playing with another little boy, a one-year-old, younger than him,” said Norma.

While the younger boy laughed and played, as soon as Norma placed Ethan in the tent, he started crying. Once she took him out of the tent, he vomited.

“It is his sensory issues. I didn’t know. That is when we were finding out he was autistic. Now, I try to pay attention to what I am doing, especially in front of him,” Norma said.

She said with a smile, “But he knows how to use the phone.”

Norma emphasized that the family does not treat him like he is “sick.”

“We treat him totally normal. You go to bed when you are supposed to. His mother is very into that,” Norma added.

Jolene shared another example of sensory overload- visits to the grocery store.

“Sometimes he just can’t handle it,” said Jolene.

They also discussed the foods they enjoy and do not enjoy, which also can tie into sensory issues. Markus will not use a spoon or a fork, said his mom. Everything has to touch his hands.

Norma said Ethan likes to push everything off his plate. Ethan also does not like to drink from an open cup.

“They have their own ways,” said Jolene.

“They line stuff up, or they have to hoard stuff.”

Ethan likes to line up cars and run back and forth. These are some signs Norma has noticed. Markus can also not handle stores (especially department stores) with small carts or with too many items in a small space.

Ethan attends school at Poteet ISD, while Markus attends Pleasanton Primary School. Both Norma and Jolene expressed how pleased they were with the schools.

“He is a lot more active than before he had started going to school. Before he wouldn’t talk to kids. Now he interacts pretty much. Not a lot but he is getting there. So it is helping him,” Norma said.

“It is wonderful. Those teachers in Poteet are awesome,” said Norma. “Mrs. Rose, Mrs. Padron, they are just great teachers. Before he wouldn’t say anything at all. He was straight up non-verbal. Now he talks more.”

Markus just started riding the bus.

“I was so nervous, but he has done great. He also attended his first field trip. He did good on that trip, too,” said Jolene.

“He has wonderful teachers and great support from the assistant principal and counselor there. We have been beyond blessed with them. I think I’m going to cry when he moves on to another grade.”

Markus also goes to rehab sessions in Jourdanton. Jolene and Stephen shared he has speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy.

“He is starting to put together more sentences now. He knows his ABC’s. We counted to 41 the other day,” Stephen said. “He loves letters and books.”

Markus also learned about clean-up time at rehab.

Norma said she has difficulty reading to Ethan. He will want to tear the pages, she said. She is trying to learn as much about autism as she can. They all shared how difficult it can be when others are so judgemental.

“They deserve all the respect in the world,” said Norma.

Another difficulty they shared is when their siblings have problems understanding certain things because of the autism. For example, why they have to leave a restaurant or the movies. While they have been told that vaccinations do not cause autism, Norma questions whether that is true.

“I have a video where my grandson is 1 1/2 and he is talking and he is playing and doing stuff. I have one after the shot and he is doing none of those things. They say we are wrong. I am his grandparent not his parent, but I see it. You can’t tell me you can’t see it,” said Norma.

“He’ll always have it for the rest of his life, but I want him to know about it and understand it.”

Jolene has been told by her son’s doctor that they wanted to do some genetic research. She went to Spark Autism Research and they sent saliva samples. They also receive updates and newsletters. Jolene also participates in surveys.

“They are trying to keep tabs on all of the things going on with these kids,” said Jolene.

Jolene has also had great experience with Any Baby Can and is grateful for the organization. She received a six-month supply of diapers, a potty chair, a gift card for clothes and a weighted blanket valued at over $200. The weighted blanket can provide autistic children comfort.

There is also a Facebook group, “It’s our world (Autism).” The group provides support, references to doctors and more. They also organize play time and parent’s night out.

“We can’t put them with the other kids, because they get angry or frustrated at them,” Norma said. Norma is looking for groups like this, to provide an environment for Ethan where he is comfortable.

You can find “It’s our world (Autism)” on Facebook.

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