Social worker forms autism support group in Tupelo

If you go

The Autism Support Group will meet at 6 p.m. Thursday, July 17 at Cafe 212, 212 W. Main St., in downtown Tupelo. For details, call Melissa Caldwell at (662) 832-2039 or Cheryl Bailey at (662) 315-3388. Autism information is available at www.nationalautismassociation.org and www.generationrescue.com.

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n A representative of the National Autism Association will speak at the group’s first meeting on July 17.

By Ginny Miller

Daily Journal

TUPELO – As a licensed master social worker, Melissa Caldwell has encountered many people whose families are affected by autism.

“It’s one in every 150 children, so it’s become an epidemic,” said Caldwell, who along with a friend, Sandra Monts, has organized an autism support group. The group’s first meeting on July 17 will feature Ann Brasher, vice president of the National Autism Association.

“This is a support group for family members, caregivers, teachers, therapists, etc., to network regarding education related to autism, as well as to offer emotional support to those involved,” Caldwell said.

The NAA defines autism as a bioneurological developmental disability that affects the normal development of the brain in the areas of social interaction, communication skills and cognitive function.

“It’s incredibly common,” said Cheryl Bailey of Amory, whose two sons are at different ends of the spectrum. Her 23-year-old son is mildly affected by Asperger syndrome, while her 15-year-old has vaccine-damaged regressive autism and is multidisabled.

Other attempts have been made in the region to start autism support groups, Bailey said, but none by a social worker.

Caldwell “contacted me and I nearly fell off my chair,” said Bailey, who works with the Generation Rescue program to help parents and others deal with autism.

“One of the biggest issues parents have is unless you have a child that’s affected, you do not understand the toll this takes on people,” Bailey said. “You just need to be with other people who can laugh, who can cry, who can give you a little guidance.”

Contact Ginny Miller at (662) 678-1582 or ginny.miller@djournal.com. Also read her education blog, Inside the Backpack, at the djournal.com Blog Center.