The Lakes Area Autism Network was established in January 2012 for the purpose of providing support and resources for area individuals on the autism spectrum, their families and professionals in the Northern Indiana lakes area who work with these families.
“LAAN provides parents with a place to get together with others who are in the same boat,” says Barbara Terry, coordinator of autism services at Otis R. Bowen Center for Human Services. “Autism is an intense disability to care for and parents generally want to do and try anything to help their children. LAAN helps families to cope better. Autism affects the whole family.”
One reason autism spectrum disorders are said to be on the rise is because more children are being identified by the medical community and other professionals, and because the definition of autism has been expanded to encompass more individuals.
“Those on the autism spectrum go from low functioning to high functioning. Generally, those who have autism have sensitivities to light, sound or touch, could act out and have social or emotional deficits,” said Terry. “Early intervention for young children and parent training programs are top priorities.”
LAAN is affiliated with the Autism Society of Indiana who provide additional resources and support to LAAN’s efforts. Monthly LAAN meetings include a speaker who is an expert on a topic of interest to parents and professionals. Past meetings have included informative presentations from summer camps, medical professionals, etc.
LAAN seeks to promote active involvement from family members and the individual with autism in the planning of individualized, appropriate service and support. Those dealing with autism are encouraged to learn about and then select the options they feel are most appropriate for the individual with autism. To the maximum extent possible, the network believes the decisions should be made by both the family and the individual with autism to result in an improved quality of life.
LAAN believes that all individuals with autism have the right to access appropriate services and supports based on their needs and desires.
“Since we’ve started, we’ve had about 30-40 participants at each meeting,” said Terry, who added that nearly 200 families in Kosciusko County alone are affected by autism. “LAAN is a way to connect parents who have children on the autism spectrum, share their child’s accomplishments and successful parenting strategies and realize they are not alone in the challenges they face.”
LAAN meetings take place the second Thursday of the month at Winona Lake Grace Brethren Church, 1500 Kings Highway, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. The next meeting will be held on Thursday, Sept. 13.
For more information about LAAN, to confirm specific meeting dates or arrange for child care during a meeting, contact Terry at [email protected] or (574) 267-7169 ext. 3280. LAAN’s website is www.laansupport.webs.com.