HRMC raises awareness during World Autism Month

Posted 4/12/23

Rehabilitation care consists of physical therapy, which restores functional movement such as standing...

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HRMC raises awareness during World Autism Month


Laura Perry, HRMC Rehabilitation Director, and LaBelle Rotary President Darrell Hill. [Photo courtesy HRMC]
Laura Perry, HRMC Rehabilitation Director, and LaBelle Rotary President Darrell Hill. [Photo courtesy HRMC]

LABELLE -- The LaBelle Rotary Club learned more about rehabilitation and about autism awareness at their April 4 meeting.

Laura Perry, Speech-Language Pathologist and Director of Rehabilitation at Hendry Regional Medical Center, was the guest speaker. She explained that Hendry Regional Medical Center provides inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation to LaBelle, Clewiston, and the surrounding communities.

Rehabilitation care consists of physical therapy, which restores functional movement such as standing, walking, moving different body parts, and is corrective as well as preventative. Occupational therapy is also provided, which focuses on evaluation and therapy to improve your functional skills in everyday life activities. This can include activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, eating; use of adaptive equipment (such as shower chairs or reachers); fall prevention, home safety; returning to work. Hendry Regional has a certified hand therapist for recovery after hand surgery. Rehabilitation services also include Speech Therapy, which focuses on helping children and adults with their speech articulation, language, cognitive skills, and swallowing. Speech-language pathologists work with speech and language development in children, aphasic adults who have suffered strokes or brain injury; memory and executive function skills, and evaluation and treatment of swallowing disorders.

Hendry Regional also has an active Inpatient Rehabilitation & Skilled Nursing Program that helps patients after an acute care hospital discharge to receive further medical care and rehabilitation. The HRMC Inpatient Rehabilitation & Skilled Nursing Program provides warm, friendly, close to home nursing care with no traveling to the coast. Inpatients receive rehabilitation from HRMC’s rehab staff of physical therapists, OTs, and SLPs in comfortable, updated private rooms. Skilled nursing care is provided by experienced nurses and a multidisciplinary team of medical professionals. The inpatient program is designed for patients that have undergone joint replacement, post-surgical care, stroke therapy, hip fractures, IV therapy, wound care, and other medical diagnoses requiring skilled care.

Perry also spoke of World Autism Awareness Month in April which brings attention to this prevalent disorder to increase understanding and acceptance of children and adults who are on the autism spectrum. She explained the Autism Spectrum as the many types and abilities within the diagnosis of autism that includes a broad range of social skills, repetitive behaviors, communication, and intellectual abilities.

Some people with autism need significant support in their daily lives, while others need less support and can learn to live independently. An estimated 25-30 percent of people with autism are nonverbal or minimally verbal. Laura explained how there is no single cause of autism, with research suggesting that there is a combination of genetic and environmental influences. Autism runs in families - parents carry genes that sometimes get passed to children. Other times, genetic changes arise spontaneously increasing the risk of autism. Parents who have a child with autism have a 2-18 percent chance of having another child with autism. Environmental risks include advanced parent age, pregnancy/birth complications, low birth weight, multiple pregnancies, and pregnancies spaced less than one year apart.

In 2023, the CDC reported that one in 36 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder; this is not a reflection of an “autism epidemic,” just a growing awareness of autism and changes to the condition’s diagnostic criteria. Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls, and Autism can be reliably diagnosed as early as age 2 years old. Autism affects all ethnic and socioeconomic groups. Early intervention affords the best opportunity to support healthy development, leading to benefits across the lifespan.

Caregivers and families of children with autism need our support. Autism costs an estimated $60,000 a year through childhood due to the costs of special services and lost wages for one or both parents. Costs increase if the child has an intellectual disability. Mothers are less likely to work outside the home, so they are often 24/7 caregivers.

Over the next decade, an estimated 707,000 to 1.1 million teens will age out of the school-based autism services and enter adulthood. More than half of the young adults will remain unemployed and unenrolled in higher education.

Laura hoped to provide information to the Rotarians and local residents about the services provided by the Hendry Regional Medical Center Rehabilitation Team and raise awareness about autism during World Autism Month.

HRMC, autism, physical therapy, rehabilitation