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Valley City Times-Record, Thursday, May 12, 2005
"'My perfect little baby boy. What will your heart be like? I just know there is something special about you.' About 20 months later, the day came when a friend told me that she thought there was something wrong with Cade. She asked if I had ever heard of autism."

Missy Brademeyer, a mother from Fort Ransom, wrote those words in a press release about Cade's World, an autism advocate organization she and her husband, Jay, started. They wanted to provide information and resources to parents in this area whose children suffer from autism.

Cade is a healthy 5-year-old boy; but his intelligence is hidden inside himself, which is often one of the symptoms of autism. Although he has made great progress with one-on-one therapy, he still has speech and motor delays, and he doesn't say many words.

Brademeyer said she first noticed the signs of autism in her son when he was 20 months old. She knew nothing about the disorder, except for seeing the movie "Rainman." She taught herself about the condition through reading books and getting information from the Internet. "I found the nearest computer and absorbed information day and night," Brademeyer said,

There were virtually no medical professionals in this area who could help Cade and the Brademeyers, so they were forced to drive 80 miles to see a pediatric neurologist in Fargo.

Brademeyer said even the physicians there offered little help. One neurologist told them to just wait and see if it got worse; the problem with that was, the children who have the best chance of recovery are those who are diagnosed early. If autistic children don't receive help when young, they are harder to help.

The Brademeyers felt like they crashed into wall after wall in trying to find help for Cade. Every day of his silence made the urgency more real.

Missy works from their home as an interior decorator, and Jay works for Bobcat Company in Gwinner, but the long drives to Fargo to see doctor after doctor were taking their toll emotionally and financially. Brademeyer said, "We can't be running to Fargo. We need the help here."

Through her own exhaustive efforts she finally found someone to work with Cade. She put up an ad at Valley City State University and hired a student to come to their home in the afternoons and work with Cade.

The Brademeyers learned therapies on the Internet and through other research, and in turn, taught the therapist how to work with Cade, even though they had no formal education in therapy or autism.

Brademeyer said Cade has made wonderful progress, but without the help of Easter Seals, they wouldn't be able to afford the therapy he needs.

Brademeyer said in severe cases of autism, a child may need as many as 40 hours of therapy a week. In rural areas that just isn't available, let alone affordable.

According to the Autism Society of America, autism often becomes obvious in children between 18 months to three years. It's a neurological disorder that affects a child's development in the areas of verbal and non-verbal communication.

This often means children with the disorder may have trouble interacting with others socially. It may seem as thought they are locked inside themselves. There is a lot going on in their minds, but they aren't able to communicate it.

These symptoms don't point to lack of intelligence. Some autistic children have scored at a genius level; others have exhibited extraordinary musical ability, for example.

Currently, there is no known cause and no known cure, but researchers are feeling the urgency, especially since cases of autism have been increasing by 10 to 17 percent per year.

Although a cure for autism hasn't been found, there is hope. Children with the disorder can benefit greatly from specific therapies designed for them. With treatment, many autistic children have grown up to lead normal lives.

On July 31, the Brademeyers will host Autism Awareness Day at Fort Ransom State Park. Therapists, teachers, advocates and families affected by autism will be there to speak and offer their knowledge.

"The concept is to bring awareness and hope from a parent's standpoint," Brademeyer said.
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