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was shining and only the sounds of nature could be heard. Children walked on trails that showcased the best that the park had to offer and chose activities that suited their particular interests. Everything was gently, soothingly inspiring and relaxing. There were soft-spoken words of direction, explanation and encouragement. It was a peaceful environment and the children were relaxed. What, exactly, is autism? According to Lu Randall, executive director of ABOARD’S Autism Connection of PA, autism is a brainbased disorder that is caused by nerve cell overgrowth and by nerve fibers developing and going in the wrong directions in the brain. A person with autism may have parts of the brain that are too small, too big, or missing entirely; those with it are biologically different. An autistic person’s behavior stems, for the most part, from the struggle to cope with everyday

life with a different sensory system and different ability to process emotions. These individuals are challenged to communicate needs and wants. Although people are becoming more aware of autism, there still are frequent misconceptions about it. For example, Mrs. Randall explains that a common misconception is that people with autism behave a certain way in order to gain attention. Or, that parents have somehow raised their autistic children incorrectly if they demonstrate big, dramatic types of behaviors. Randall believes that people “really need to listen to parents who have undergone a life-changing moment at diagnosis and then are supposed to somehow figure out exactly what to do every single minute of every day, with no road map, in order to keep their children safe, healthy and happy. It’s a really overwhelming continued on next page

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