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Local dad hopes to spread autism awareness by sharing story of daughter’s diagnosis

Moultrie News - 4/17/2018

Brice Bessinger is a sweet, loving, 13-year-old girl with a smile that will light up a room. She loves to listen to music and play on her iPhone. Like most girls her age, Brice is always plotting her next get together with a friend. She is admired by her teachers and classmates at Moultrie Middle School. Brice has mood swings typical for her age, but she also lives with the daily challenges that come with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Daily tasks that have become natural to most teens are challenges for Brice. Taking a shower, brushing her teeth, climbing the stairs, or talking to a friend can seem insurmountable to a child or adult with ASD. The spectrum for autism is wide. Challenges are unique to each individual, just as their personality is unique to them.

Brice was not diagnosed with ASD until she was 10 years old. Most children are diagnosed earlier and have greater chances of responding to therapy at this age. With her diagnosis came a flood of emotions. Her parents felt anxious, and yet relieved to have some explanation for behaviors or developmental milestones that had not been met over the years. Brice’s father, David Bessinger (owner of Melvin’s Barbecue), recalls how he felt when his daughter was diagnosed. “I felt sad, scared, relieved. I thought, usually kids get diagnosed earlier than this don’t they? Can we still help our daughter reach those milestones at her age? It was overwhelming, you know.”

Brice began Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy about six months after her diagnosis. ABA therapy is the only data proven therapy for autism. With the help of this proven therapy, Brice has made tremendous strides in speech, language, social, adaptive and academic domains. STAR is a wonderful resource for families right here in Mount Pleasant. Focusing on ABA treatment, a STAR treatment team works with clients and their families, teaching them life skills necessary to thrive in all environments.

Kasey Petersen is a board certified behavior analyst and the clinical director at STAR in Mount Pleasant. Petersen encourages parents to ask questions if they have concerns about speech or developmental delays, or see signs of maladaptive, abnormal behaviors or nonexistent social behaviors. “I would encourage parents to express these concerns to their pediatrician and get a referral for a relevant diagnostic evaluation, specifically for ASD. The results of the evaluation can assist parents in the proper direction to help their child get the help they need in the relevant areas, such as ABA therapy,” Petersen says.

Research and Empirical evidence prove that the younger the child receives ABA intervention, the more successful the individual will be in reaching their full potential. “Receiving necessary intervention like ABA therapy, at an early age (with high frequency and duration) can help children reach their full individual potential. We have experienced that after working with children at the early age of two years old, after three years of intense ABA therapy, it is possible for these children to participate in regular education classes and blend in with similar aged peers. While this may not be a realistic outcome for every child, it shows what early intervention can do,” she says.

The road has been long, but guided by faith and perseverance. The Bessingers continue to ask questions and seek support for their family through all things great and small. David hopes Brice’s story will spread hope and awareness and point families to meaningful resources in our community. “We are just so thankful for all the folks that have made Brice’s journey brighter by sharing theirs with us. That’s what it’s all about,” David says.

You can show your support and spread autism awareness by attending upcoming local events. On April 17, Melvin’s BBQ will donate 10 percent of all sales from both the Mount Pleasant and James Island restaurants to the Walk for Autism-Charleston. The Walk for Autism will be held on April 28 at 9 a.m. at Hampton Park.

Register online at

Walk for Autism-Charleston is a non-profit organization which raises funds to help many special children struggling with autism. The primary goal is to fund scholarships for these families to help pay for the treatment and intervention of autism through behavioral and relational development programs. The walk is held during the month of April to celebrate Autism Awareness Month. It is a family friendly walk through historic Hampton Park, with free refreshments, live music, jump castles, silent auction, autism merchandise, haircuts by Great Clips, and STAR Therapy Dogs. Sponsors will be there with information about autism and activities for the entire family. Registration begins at 9 a.m. and the walk begins at 10 a.m.


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