BLACKFOOT–TJ Boyer and her husband David Boyer moved to the area a little while ago after researching support for their autistic 12 year-old son. They really liked how there was a lot of support in Pocatello and Idaho Falls. They decided to move to Blackfoot, and found that there was little familial support for families who have autistic children. Boyer decided this needed to change.
Autism is a complex neurobehavioral disorder which is characterized by impairment in reciprocal social interaction, impairment in communication, and a presence of repetitive and stereotypic patterns of behaviors, interests, and activities. Children who are diagnosed with autism, which can take a while depending on the severity, can have a range of impairments. It is not specific to all children. Some are very high-functioning autistics who have acquired skills to connect with others, and some have no useful communication and have complex social issues. This is why it is called the autism spectrum: no two children are exactly the same. No matter the case, children who are autistic have their own ways to communicate with the world around them. Parents and family members follow routines and methods to reduce the stress and breakdowns, which can occur when the children are overstimulated or cannot deal with the noises.
Many times parents and families with children who are autistic feel isolated and cut off from other people because of the rigors of helping their children are not understood by others. Boyer reached out to Facebook and found that there were a lot of families in the Blackfoot area who were feeling isolated because of their children's specific needs. Boyer quickly put together a page for parents to connect called Autism Friends of Blackfoot. They are hoping to turn it into more than just a parent support group.
Many events, like Trick or Treating at Jensen's Grove, leave out the children who are special needs. The crowds, noise, flickering lights, and scary faces in general can be very traumatic for children who are autistic. They still want to be like the other kids and enjoy having fun. Boyer is hoping that connecting parents with activities that are specifically attuned to kids who have special needs.
Boyer also wants people to know, "This group is not just for parents with children who have special needs. We want parents who have children who are transitioning into their teenage years as well as teenagers who want to date, and moving into adulthood. Most parents need guidance on how to be a guardian for their adult children who have special needs." The group is available to anyone and everyone. Boyer hopes that this group will also bring in speakers about IEPs, 504s, school safety, special education departments, and how parents can partner with them. Also through these speakers, give parents a chance to have outing with their children in a safe place. If there are parents, guardians, grandparents, or family members who would like to know more, please check out the Facebook page "Autism Friends of Blackfoot."