Group helps Fort Lee parents grappling with autism

Posted at 6:45 PM, Jan 09, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-09 18:45:57-05

COLONIAL HEIGHTS, Va (WTVR) -- A lack of services for military families that have children with autism has prompted a Virginia non-profit group to take action.

For 18 years, the Virginia Institute of Autism has helped families in the Charlottesville area. But the nonprofit realized military families at Fort Lee were in need of services, including one-on-one applied behavior analysis.

"We like to target populations under served. And military families, as a result of their moving around, often have lapses in services and have difficulties finding services once they get to their area," the Virginia Institute of Autism's Emily Callahan said.

With Kenner Army Health Clinic on board giving referrals, the VIA needed a space to set up shop. With no space available on post, Mount Pleasant Baptist Church stepped up and offered them space in their Sunday School area.

"Because of their partnership, they've offered to come in and help us, be a church that's more adequately equipped to care for families with Autism and other special needs families," Curtis Barnes, the church's lead pastor, said.

For families like Jenna Jeanpierre, whose 5-year-old was diagnosed with autism 2 years ago, it was a long waited answer to their needs.

"They are talking about you know, teaching me how to do the things that they do in the therapy session at home, so it would be like ongoing therapy for her," said Jeanpierre. "So I'm really happy about that to learn what they are teaching her, so I can practice it at home."