BUCKHANNON – The Upshur County Commission approved two proclamations to raise awareness about autism and child abuse.
Upshur County community corrections employee Samantha Ribeiro Matos presented the proclamation for Autism Awareness Month. She said 1-in-44 school-aged children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, but she anticipates that statistic will go up.
“They look at eight-year-olds to determine that number, so I would expect as time goes on, that’s going to get even higher because the earlier you catch the symptoms and the younger you are when you can get the diagnosis, the more efficiently and quickly you can get services,” Matos said. “We’re still not 100 percent sure about everything with autism; we’re still learning, but I expect those numbers to continue to get higher every time.”
Diagnosing a child with autism can also be tricky because the symptoms vary among individuals.
“My kids had the same parents, same diagnosis, completely different sensory needs, completely different diets, everything is just completely different amongst both of them,” Matos said. “One of the favorite things I like to say is, ‘If you know one person with autism, you know one person with autism.’”
Lori Ulderich-Harvey, director of the Upshur County Family Resource Network, presented the proclamation for Child Abuse Prevention Month.
“Even under the best circumstances, a child can still be abused, so if we see something, say something, and it has to start at the community level,” Harvey said. “Through Healthy Grandfamilies and some other groups, it’s just hitting me harder than it usually does.”
Harvey said it’s important to remember that any child can be abused, and it will still happen during Child Abuse Prevention Month.
“We put up our signs, and yes, it’s Child Abuse Prevention Month and then we forget about it. Child abuse doesn’t stop in April, so I just want everyone to keep it in the forefront of your mind. It may not be the child you expect it to be; it could be a very well-respected family, and that child could still be abused or neglected,” Harvey said. “As our sign says this year, protecting children is everyone’s job because if we don’t protect our kids, that’s the future of our communities, and it’s going to be the community that suffers, but the kids are suffering already.”
Proclamation for Autism Awareness Month:
WHEREAS, autism spectrum disorder is a neurological and developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior; and WHEREAS, autism is an urgent public health crisis that demands support from all levels of government; and
WHEREAS, symptoms of autism may present themselves in a variety of combinations, and can result in significant lifelong impairment of an individual’s ability to learn, develop healthy interactive behaviors, understand and nonverbal communication; and
WHEREAS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one in 44 school-aged children have been identified with autism spectrum disorder; and
WHEREAS, West Virginia is committed to ensuring that people living with autism have access to lifelong care and services needed to pursue their full potential and happiness; and
WHEREAS, the Upshur County Commission is honored to take part in the annual observance of Autism Awareness Month and World Autism Day in the hope that it will lead to a better understanding of the disorder;
NOW, THEREFORE, the Upshur County Commission does hereby recognize April, 2023 as Autism Awareness Month and April 2, 2023 as World Autism Awareness Day in Upshur County, West Virginia, and we call this observance to the attention of all our citizens.
Proclamation for Child Abuse Prevention Month:
WHEREAS, during child abuse and neglect prevention month, it is important to talk about what each and every one of us can do to make sure that children in our community grow up healthy, safe, and loved;
WHEREAS, child abuse and neglect are a symptom of a larger problem – the lack of resources and support for families in our community, and the majority of child abuse cases stem from situations and conditions that are preventable in an engaged and supportive community;
WHEREAS, when the well-being of children and families becomes the priority of everyone in the community, the number of child abuse and neglect cases will decrease, and other good things will happen such as better health outcomes, improved school performance, etc.;
WHEREAS, child abuse and neglect can be reduced by making sure each family has the support they need to raise their children in a healthy environment;
WHEREAS, this month, it is important that every member of our community consider what they can do to improve our collective well-being, which can be achieved by volunteering, making donations, or advocating for family-friendly policies and programs – everyone can take their turn making a difference.
WHEREAS, child abuse prevention month is an especially good time to talk about the five Protective Factors (Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development; Parental Resilience; Social Connections;
Social and Emotional Development of Children; and Concrete Support in Times of Need) and how, when present, they increase the health and well-being of children and families.
NOW THEREFORE, THE UPSHUR COUNTY COMMISSION does hereby proclaim the month of April as Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month in Upshur County and call upon all citizens, community agencies, faith groups, medical facilities, and businesses to increase their participation in our efforts to support families, thereby preventing child abuse and strengthening the communities in which we live.