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Autism: Fighting to give services to community

By JR Ortega
Nov. 19, 2011 at 5:19 a.m.

Adam Frank Garcia, 6, uses his talker, an electronic-speaking device, to express words and phrases during speech therapy. Adam must press different images to find the word he is looking for on the talker and then the talker speaks the word. Because Adam has non-verbal autism, the speaker allows him to communicate. "It was such a relief," his mother, Rosemary Pena Watts, said, "to finally know what he was thinking and what he needed."

Rosemary Pena Watts' worry ate away at her like a worm slowly drilling into the core of a rotten apple.

She had waited for this appointment for almost a year, but at that moment in time, she wanted to be as far away from that room as possible.

She was about to find out what made her son so different. It was what she thought - he had autism.

"You come out of that room a different person," she said.

Suddenly, the hardest part was not hearing the truth, it was what would become of the rest of their lives.

Now she serves as a beacon of guidance for an area lacking in services for its autistic community.

The second part of the "Missing Pieces" autism series focuses on these services and what Pena Watts is doing to not only fight back, but also to give back.

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