CFC benefits Marine family[MIGRATE]

By Cpl. David Christian | November 09, 2000

The Combined Federal Campaign is making a difference close to home.
The CFC is helping a Marine family at Camp Pendleton overcome struggles with their child?s disability.

Madeline E. Waldow, daughter of Sgt. Glen A. Waldow, criminal investigator, Security Battalion, was first diagnosed with autism in February 1998, at age 2.
Waldow and his wife, April, have three children: Haley, 6, Madeline, 4, and Seth, 11 months. Madeline is their only family member with autism. They have been stationed here since November 1996.

As Madeline was growing up, the Waldow?s noticed she seemed different. Madeline wasn?t speaking, and she paid little attention to anyone.

At first, the Waldows thought there was something wrong with Madeline?s hearing, but tests proved she could hear fine.

?We knew something was wrong with Madeline, but we were not sure what it was,? Waldow said.

Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life.

It effects the normal development of the brain in the areas of social interaction. Autism makes it hard for individuals to communicate and relate with others.

People with autism may exhibit repeated body movements (hand flapping, rocking), unusual responses to people or attachments to objects and resistance to changes in routine, according to the Autism Society of America?s Web site. They may also experience sensitivities in the fives senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste.

Autism is estimated to occur in as many as one in 500 people, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1997. More than one-half million people in the United States today have autism or some form of the disorder. Its prevalence makes autism one of the most common developmental disabilities.

Camp Pendleton currently has 23 autistic children, said Conrad J. Donarski, coordinator, Exceptional Family Member Program.

Most of the public, including many medical and educational professionals, are still unaware of how autism affects people and how to effectively work with autistic individuals, according to the ASA?s Web site.

But charitable groups are making a difference.

Through the CFC, the Waldow family has received help from more than one organization.
For example, the ASA helped the Waldows learn more about autism.

The ASA?s mission is to ?promote lifelong access and opportunities for persons with the autism spectrum and their families, to be fully included, participating members of their communities through advocacy, public awareness, education and research related to autism.?

?They helped educate us about autism, took the fear out of it and put us in touch with support groups,? said Waldow. ?It made us feel like we were not alone.?

Another organization, Hope Infant, provided Madeline with free developmental therapy by a professional counselor, six hours a day for 11 months.

And the California Regional Centers continue to monitor and assess Madeline?s special needs.

?We?ve been taken care of when needs come up,? Waldow said. ?It makes us feel wonderful,? he said.

The Waldow?s have much hope.

Waldow said there is a large autistic community throughout the country, and it affects many military families.

Thanks to the CFC, the public continues to learn more about autism, Waldow said.

?The CFC is a great campaign for service members to contribute to,? Waldow said.