6 News Anchor
KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Vance Ballantine is 4 and a half years-old. He is an outgoing, fun-loving little boy.
It's not until you realize he doesn't talk very much, that something isn't developmentally on target.
Vance was diagnosed with autism when he was 18-months-old.
Vance's mother, Emily, explained, "I knew something was up. I just couldn't quite put my finger on it."
Emily took Vance for a checkup, and explained his symptoms to the doctor, which led to his diagnosis.
Vance had some of the classic signs of autism:
*insistence on sameness; resisting changes in routine
*sustained odd play
*echolalia : repeating words or phrases in place of normal language
*inappropriate attachment to objects
*difficulty in expressing needs; using gestures or pointing instead of words
Emily said early intervention is critical, explaining, "For the first year after his diagnosis, we were going to therapy seven times a week in a five day period. We worked our rear ends off trying to get him to a point where he could function." She said, "We did physical therapy, occupational therapy, and we still do speech therapy."
The latest Centers for Disease Control and Protection studies show 1 in 88 children are diagnosed with the developmental disorder; more boys are in that number than girls.
And while there is no known cause, researchers are finding that there is a genetic predisposition to autism, and most likely, more than one trigger.
Brook Dickerson is the Executive Director of the Autism Society of East Tennessee. She said, "There's a group that believes it's vaccines, a group that believes it's additives in food and folks that believe...we don't know."
In the meantime, Vance's mom is looking to the next technological tool to reinforce her son's ongoing therapy.
It's an iPad app called "autismate."
It's a user-friendly app, where you take pictures of rooms inside your home, such as the kitchen. By placing stars and other hot spots on items on things in the kitchen Vance can touch, it then activates a recorded voice stating what he wants.
As Emily explained, "He can touch the milk, and the tablet will say out loud, 'I want milk.' "
The hope is, by repeating the voice commands, Vance's vocabulary will improve through repetition.
Vance's family has started a website to raise funds for an iPad and the autism app. Right now, the Ballantine family is almost halfway to their goal.
Go to www.giveforward.com and "Voicing Vance" if you'd like to help Vance get an iPad.
To learn more about autism and local efforts to help families with education and awareness, check out the Autism Society of East Tennessee at www.asaetc.org.