Inspired by Wiemers Family Gorillas Promote Autism Awareness

  Friday, October 30, 2015 2:00 AM

Pittsburg, KS

Inspired by Wiemers Family Gorillas Promote Autism Awareness

It is estimated that one in 68 children are diagnosed with autism each year. It is a disease that can hit any family with no definitive rhyme or reason. For Pitt State defensive coordinator, Dave Wiemers and his wife Susie, that one in 68 became more than a statistic when their middle son, Tyson, now 13, was diagnosed.

In support of the Wiemers family's desire to promote Autism awareness, research and understanding, Pittsburg State Athletics will host Autism Awareness on Saturday against Missouri Southern. The freshmen on the Pittsburg State football team will be collecting donations throughout the stadium between the first and second quarters of the game.

The proceeds will go to the Autism Classroom, which is a specialty classroom at Pittsburg's George Nettels Elementary designed specifically for autistic children who have a more difficult time learning in a traditional classroom. Although it is housed in George Nettels, it is open to all kids with autism in the local area. The room is set up to help children, no matter of their ability level, from higher functioning children, to those who have a more difficult time communicating or are not verbal at all.

The Autism Classroom is also home to a sensory integration room. It acts as a safe haven for children to go when they feel overstimulated by the outside world. They can go into the sensory integration room to collect themselves and develop their sensory needs through therapies, which may include soft sounds, dim lighting, soft, squishy objects, and anything that will help them stay calm and promote learning.

Tyson was diagnosed with autism at age eight, but his symptoms were recognizable early on. While some people believe that autism can be caused by vaccinations or genetics, neither of these was a factor in Tyson's diagnosis. The Wiemers sought therapy for him when he was just 18 months old.
"He wasn't quite achieving milestones and was intolerant of his sensory needs," Susie said. "I don't think numbers were reflective of him being on the spectrum until he was older, then the gap started widening between him and other kids. As he grew older and didn't mature, these symptoms showed a little better on paper."

"We were really fortunate to intervene early," Dave said. "If these kids get early therapy, they're definitely starting to jump over hurdles early. It gives them a chance at normalcy as they grow older."

Tyson functions socially and mentally at a higher level than many children on the autism spectrum, so his impairments do not stand in the way of his passions. He participates in baseball, football, bowling, golf, and will be suiting up for Pittsburg Middle School's basketball team this winter.  On weekends, he is often seen standing alongside his father on the sidelines at Pittsburg State football games and also supports his brothers, Brett and Brock in all their activities as well.

"Tyson has been treated so well at George Nettels and the middle school," Dave said. "The support Tyson gets from friends, their parents and even strangers is overwhelming to us. If we get anything out of this day, let's get a little money together to help some more kids and bring some awareness and understanding, so others can be treated like he was."



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