Autism family group hosts first bowling outing
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal - 1/6/2019
Jan. 06--CORINTH -- This is the fifth year Reconnect 4 Autism has hosted monthly meetings challenging members on the autism spectrum to try new things and connect with other families.
On Saturday morning, the group hosted its first bowling outing in Corinth.
Reconnect 4 Autism coordinator Brad Essary said there are not a lot of groups in the area that provide activities for families with members on the spectrum.
"There are some support groups where parents get together, and they can discuss issues, but there is really not a lot of groups that will do activities for the kids and the whole family to have fun," Essary said.
Essary has a son on the spectrum and is also a therapist at Region IV Mental Health Services in Tishomingo.
"He's the reason that we started it," Essary said.
Environmental stimuli easily taken for granted, such as loud noises and bright lights, can be difficult for those with autism spectrum disorder, so the group makes an effort to mitigate these sensory challenges at their meetups.
"Every kid is different, but with autism, the one thing that is pretty common is the sensory issues, so they get overwhelmed easily," Essary said.
Elizabeth Cummings of Iuka began attending the events for her older son, Everett Brewster, who is on the spectrum.
"We try to come out to as many of these as we can," Cummings said, adding Reconnect 4 Autism is the only group she knows of that meets for activities.
Cummings said it was six years before her son was comfortable going to the movies, adding the sensory-friendly movies allow her son to participate.
"I feel like there is not very much support for families that have children with autism, and going out into the public can sometimes be overwhelming, especially for kids that are newly diagnosed," Cummings said. "As you get more comfortable, it's nice to not have to worry. We have meltdowns and everybody gets it and understands, and they set the environment up so that it's OK."
Leah Basden is a special education teacher at Corinth Middle School, and said she attends the events with her 2-year-old son, even though she does not have a child on the spectrum.
"I bring him because I work with special needs, and I think it's important to let him see other kids that have disabilities. That way when he gets older, he can be one of those that takes them in and helps them," Basden said.
At the bowling event, the lights were dimmed, the music was turned off and a party room was set aside for the kids to decompress.
The group meets monthly for various events with funds raised from the annual Color Run/Walk for Autism Awareness Month in Corinth in April. Essary said the first Color Run brought together 1,000 runners and walkers. There were 700 people at last year's run.
The group usually meets for "Movie at Malco" each month. The movies are made sensory-friendly for individuals with autism spectrum disorder, meaning the lights stay on and sound stays down. Essary said the movie events are open to anyone with special needs.
The group also regularly hosts events in Corinth, Iuka and Tupelo. In addition to movie nights, there is ice skating in Iuka in October, swimming parties in Corinth and Christmas-themed events each year.
The group also partners with the comic convention event in Tupelo, TupeloCon, to create dedicated space for children on the spectrum.
Reconnect 4 Autism is a community outreach project made up of volunteers from Region IV Mental Health Services to provide activities for individuals and families on the autism spectrum within a four-county area in north Mississippi. Coordinator Brad Essary said families from Alabama and Tennessee regularly join the group.
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