HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) –

April is Autism Awareness Month, which is a time to bring Autism awareness to the forefront through education. But, speech language pathologist Sarah Case-Price wants the public to be aware of early detection and know it leads to better outcomes for children with Autism.

Case-Price said when a parent walks their child through the door of The Children’s Center for Communication and Development on the University of Southern Mississippi’s campus, their child is getting more than therapy.

“They’re a child first.They need love. They need fun. They need play,” Case-Price said.

As the director of the center, Case-Price said she and the staff of therapists make sure they put the child first when treating them for Autism Spectrum Disorders.

“It’s not an Autistic child. It’s a child first. They’re a person first,” Case-Price said. “It’s a child with Autism. A Down syndrome baby, it’s a baby who has Down syndrome.”

Case-Price said this is called person-first language. It’s a key to Autism awareness, and it’s not just a motto at the center.  

“We are going to address why they are coming to see these specialized therapists,” Case-Price said.

Case-Price said they treat children with various conditions of the Autism Spectrum Disorder.

“We have speech language pathologists that are our lead,” Case-Price said.

According to Case-Price, they can take the lead before the child is born.

“If we know that a child is going to be born with a disability, a genetic disorder, problems at birth or is a very early preemie, we can start with those families then, working with education and tips,” Case-Price said.

She added that puts early detection not only in the therapist’s hands, but the parents.

“The first signs of Autism are a lack of communication,” she said. “Early on, when they are babies, it’s that nonverbal communication. It’s eye contact. It’s the cooing back and forth that’s not there.”

When red flags and delays are identified, the center works to improve the child’s development and teach parents how to interact with their child. For Case-Price, that makes early detection most important.

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