CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — The group Community Autism Resources and Education Systems, or CARES, was born from a tragedy in 2017 after a local family with special needs children resulted in a murder-suicide in Cabell County.
The group is now helping hundreds of West Virginia families cope with raising autistic children and letting them know there is help.
It is made up of West Virginia parents, most who have autistic children themselves.
Their latest effort is a free, seven-week web seminar series with behavioral experts who will explain different topics each time.
According to the CDC, 1 in 54 children in the U.S. has ASD or Autism Spectrum Disorder.
In West Virginia it’s estimated to be roughly 6,000 children.
“They feel alone, they don’t feel like they have connections to the right resources and so we hope to be a place where we can bring families together and share information,” said Sarah Harris, executive director of CARES.
Harris’s son has been diagnosed with ASD and she says it took five years and she understands the frustration many families who call them are experiencing.
“They’re just grasping for a lifeline, like when you reach this point and you can’t fix a need that your child has, it’s devastating.”
The web series will focus on access to therapy, feeding concerns, speech and language, safety and advocacy.
A child with autism is said to have average medical expenses that exceed those without ASD by about $4,110 to $6200 dollars per year.
Harris says access to therapy is the number one need in the state right now.
“We don’t have enough professionals that can provide even diagnostics, so getting a diagnosis sometimes means families have to leave the state to get that diagnosis,” she said.
The first seminar is Sunday from 8 to 9 p.m. on their Facebook page.
The non-profit also actively holds summer camps, runs, family fun days, and other events to fund their programming and they say they love seeing new families at their events.