Being told your child is Autistic can be heart wrenching -- just imagine -- someone telling you that your son or daughter's life is going to be more challenging than your life was, and that there's not much you can do change the diagnosis.
According to the Center of Disease Control hundreds of thousand of young children are considered to be diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
And being told your child is Autistic can be heart wrenching -- just imagine -- someone telling you that your son or daughter's life is going to be a little bit more challenging than your life was, and that there's not much you can do change the diagnosis.
But it's what parents do after the diagnosis that's important.
After spending time with local families who have made the best out of their situations it's *not* hard to notice the huge improvements.
Julie Higby and her husband found out their son was autistic more than a year ago - she tell us she was floored - almost in denial at first.
Helen Ezell has four sons who are all diagnosed to be on the spectrum, she said when her and her husband four out their first son was Autistic, the only thing received - was a piece of paper.
And when Tracy and Guy Berg learned that their three year old daughter Riley is Autistic, it was the answer to all their questions, but the hardest one to hear.
"The three things that make up Autism are a delay in communication, a delay in social skills and some sort or repetitive behavior or intense interest," said FIRST WORDS Project director Julie Riley.
FIRST WORDS Project is an autism prevalence grant received from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to screen children between the ages of 9 and 18 months in 12 Panhandle counties.
It partners with pediatricians to screen children and offer free language and autism evaluations to children who do not pass the screening.
FSU was only one of two sites in the country to receive this grant.
Now think of every day life living with four young boys who are all on the spectrum.
"People call us and we (Joe and I) say come over meet the boys, if a household like ours with four special needs boy can function, so can yours. It gives them hope!"
Helen, who is also a pediatric nurse, attributes the boys autism to be a combination of genetic vulnerability and environment.
Her biggest concern - the use of Thimerosal or Ethylmercury, a preservative used in vaccinations.
Because of this- not one of her boys gets a shot of any kind.
"All these guys are on the spectrum but in theory all are different and that's what were trying to tell families, if you seen one child with Autism, you've only seen one with Autism," said Ezell.
The boys inspired Helen and Joe to open an Autism Education Center, it's purpose is to serve as a constant resource.
It's schedule to opening in about a month and just last week received a $5,000 dollar boost from the George A. Butchikas foundation.
Carolyn Butchikas offered the Ezell's the check.
The money will help them finish up the home before it opens. Although it's already outfitted with tools such as a kitchen, future garden, therapy rooms and an office for the children the learn and play.
"We don't have anything like this in Bay County... You know? She's starting something that is very well needed for small children, a summer camp, an after school program. We need it," said Foundation President Caroly Butchikas, .
Helen has a list of therapists, donors and families offering their services.
Because as Victoria Morson, early interventionist of 1st C.L.A.S.S. TODDLERS, Inc., will tell you, its the smallest changes that make the biggest differences.
"Those moments, you can't describe the, they just make your year even if you just get a look..eye contact, even a look," she said.
Autism Education Center: https://www.autismeducationcenter.net/