MIFFLINTOWN - If 7-year-old Tino is having a bad day, he can't help but lick people, flowers or walls as he walks by. When he is having a good day, though, he behaves like any other second grader.
Tino has been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism, which makes every day a surprise, said his mom.
"My favorite thing to say about children with a spectrum disorder is that they are differently-abled not disabled," said Jessica Guyer, Tino's mom. "Angela St. John, another mom in the area with an autistic child, and I created the Juniata County Autism Support group in the hopes of spreading that type of positive thinking."
Sentinel photo by LAUREN?LINHARD
Jessica Guyer, left, and Angela St. John share book suggestions that are meant for family reading and assistance in understanding autism.
St. John's son Ezekiel was diagnosed with autism and mild mental retardation in 2011. At 6 years old he has difficulty handling speech, self-expression, loud sounds and going to the bathroom on his own, she said. He spends a lot of time organizing his toy trains by colors and size or spinning in circles while looking at the ceiling, she added.
St. John and Guyer felt the distance to the support group in Mifflin County was too far to travel with work, school and taking care of their kids.
"Life can get really stressful at times when you are raising a child with autism," St. John said. "I suggested to Jessica that we create a group of our own for parents in Juniata County. The benefit of having this group is knowing that someone nearby is always available to help and learn from."
According to autismspeaks.org, autism is the fastest growing developmental disability in the United States, affecting 1 in every 88 children. The support group was created for anyone living with autism or for those who love someone with autism, Guyer said.
The group was formed in July with the creation of a Facebook page and the quick expansion of 26 members, Guyer said. Though there have been no group meetings yet, Guyer and St. John anticipate holding quarterly meetings where parents can come together to discuss experiences and give advice.
"It's important to know that you have someone who will listen and that you're not alone," Guyer said. "It's nice to recommend or get suggestions of movies or books that are geared to families that have a child with autism."
For more information on the Juniata County Autism Support Group visit the Facebook page or contact Jessica Guyer at email@example.com.