Lawton_Autism is a disease without a known cause, but with specialized education, many affected children now are able to transition into independent adulthood. Lawton Public Schools has a program that is so successful, parents are now moving to Lawton to get their children into it.
Even the military has taken notice. Some soldiers have been re stationed to Ft. Sill on a "Compassionate Reassignment" - to get their kids enrolled in the LPS system.
The program's success is promoted by one local woman, because it was actually a teacher - not a doctor - who diagnosed her son as autistic. And it was caught so early, one can hardly tell he has a disability. So now Ruth Ridge wants to let other parents know there is help out there for them, and this school system that can make a difference.
Isaias likes to learn at Hastings bookstore because it provides him with some of his favorite things: books and games. But his mom loves Hastings because the environment gives him a chance to work with colors and shapes, and practice reading. She says many of these children can be viewed as average children, "Because they're not Special Olympics, they're not handicapped, and they're not retarded," Ruth Ridge said. "They're just not sociable."
When Isaias was just three years old, a teacher noticed he had autistic tendencies; his doctors had misdiagnosed as obsessive compulsive disorder. "Because they have communication issues, they get frustrated, they get anxiety, they get depression," Ridge said. "And had it not been for the school system, we would have never found out, and he wouldn't be as calm, and you know, as normalized as he is now."
Isaias now is promoted through grade levels as the typical student is, thanks to the teachers at Douglass Elementary and the way they work individually with each child. "If you see from where they come from, and where they get them, you're just like, 'Oh my God, I can't believe that's my child,'" she said. "He was almost like a cave person, and now he's civilized, he's fully functional, and they're very smart."
Isaias is part of a program called "Mainstreaming". He is part of the special needs program, but he learns in a regular third grade classroom; something his teacher says is key to helping him succeed in adulthood. "It's great for the regular ed students, as well as the special needs students, because it helps us all learn to adapt to one another," Catreva Chase, a third grade teacher at Douglass Elementary.
Ridge says even though her son is normalized and functional. But, some people still misunderstand autism. They accuse her of being a bad parent, or make degrading comments toward Isaias. That's something she's hoping a new support group in Lawton will help solve simply, by simply promoting awareness.
Ridge is one of the parents who has started that support group, open to anyone with an autistic child. But they also welcome anyone who has information, research, or resources that can help advance autistic children.