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      Parents of autistic kids gain knowledge, hope

      Parents of autistic children in Georgetown County are learning what they can do to help their kids.

      At a seminar in Murrells Inlet Friday, experts told parents of autistic children that because the disorder covers such a broad spectrum, those children face a complex set of needs.

      "There's so much of a range of autism and each child is different and unique and special," said Melanie Stecz, who has an autistic 6-year-old son and helped organize the seminar.

      To emphasize the uniqueness of kids with the disorder, one autism consultant told the parents, "If you've seen one autistic child, you've seen one autistic child."

      A recent study showed nearly half of all autistic kids will go missing at least once and many of those kids will die, often of drowning.

      Advocates want to raise awareness of things like radio beacon bracelets used for tracking lost kids.

      "There are some tools like Project Lifesaver, where you can register and get the child a wristband, so that way if they were to get lost they could be identifiable," said consultant Trish Lord.

      Parents at the seminar learned about techniques using the arts to help autistic kids learn social skills. For example, with stage acting, people have to know how to act, react and read other actors.

      "That's something that these (autistic) children don't do very easily, so it's a wonderful tool in which to help them learn how to do that, to read someone's body language and non-verbal cues, to understand social situations and how you might react in a different way," said autism specialist Cindy Schneider.

      Stecz says she wants parents to know an autism diagnosis doesn't have to be gloom and doom. The obstacles can be overcome.

      "A child with autism is still a wonderful human being and that he or she is still a part of society and we need to be accepting."

      Schneider say it's important for parents to be advocates for their children to state government, to their schools and wherever the kids can't speak for themselves.