While 1 in 68 children have been identified as having an autism spectrum disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this was not always the case; 20 years ago cases of autism weren't as prevalent.
Lauri Moreland of River Falls said when her 28-month-old daughter, Lindsey Moreland (who will be 24 years old this month) was diagnosed with autism, it was not something with which she or her husband Todd were familiar.
"We [Todd and I] had never heard of autism," Lauri said.
Lauri admitted it was hard to bond with Lindsey because Lindsey cried often, didn't sleep well, and never wanted to be held or touched.
This is when Lauri and her family started learning about autism and are now sharing what they learned in the hopes their knowledge and experience may help someone else living with autism.
Lindsey and Lauri, along with Todd Moreland (Lindsey's dad), Brittany Moreland (Lindsey's sister) and Ida Feyereisen (Lindsey's grandma), have written "Autism: A Family Lives Beyond the Label, The Lindsey Moreland Story." Linda Wagner (Lindsey's aunt, Lauri's sister) gave writing support and direction for the book. Lauri said she really helped them tell their story.
"It has taken 2.5 years to write, but we have lived [our story] for almost 24 years," Lauri said. "We will never quit living it. Autism never goes away."
Through talking with others and doing their own research, Lindsey's family began to understand more about what was going on with Lindsey. Lauri said they realized they needed to share their knowledge with others to help with autism education.
"We, for Lindsey, wanted acceptance and awareness," Lauri said.
When Lindsey was in kindergarten, Lauri began speaking publicly about autism in Lindsey's elementary school district. Lauri continues to speak in public and is now joined by both Lindsey and Brittany as they bring autism awareness to others.
"[We want to] get information out so future people understand better," Lauri said about speaking on autism. "[There] just wasn't enough information at the time Lindsey was at school."
One of the things they share is what worked for Lindsey to cope with her autism. Lindsey went through physical, occupational and speech therapy along with auditory training, sensory integration and changing to a gluten free diet.
"This [the above items] is what worked for her," Lauri said. "But we understand each situation is different."
Lauri said they have never let autism define who Lindsey is, and while she may have the label of autism, that is mainly so she could receive the services she needed to cope with the differences autism gave her.
"Some things and feelings are different for her, but because of the help she got she is better able to cope with the differences," Lauri said.
Lindsey said at the age of 13 she discovered she had a talent for art. She has continued with her pencil work art and used her art talent to design and draw the cover and back page of their book; she also drew a picture of her grandparents dog in the book. She also has a Facebook page www.facebook.com/lindseymoreland2/ that features her pencil art.
"Doing art since [age] 13 and it became my passion," Lindsey said. "Drawing helps me feel better, especially during my loneliness times. Drawing helps me communicate to the world."
Lindsey has her artwork on display at Cracked Barrel in Hudson. She will also have her work displayed at the Kelley Gallery in Hudson in April for Autism Awareness Month.
Lindsey admitted she was lonely at times during school and suffered through bullying. But in 2014 she went back to her school district and spoke about accepting people for their differences, and would like increase the number of students she can reach with her message.
"After making a difference at my school district, I want to make a difference at other school districts," Lindsey said about speaking on anti-bullying.
In addition to her artwork and public speaking, Lindsey started working at the YMCA in September 2017; in January she started teaching Spanish to younger YMCA youth.
Lindsey has enjoyed learning different languages; when she was younger she started learning seven different languages, but Spanish is her favorite.
Through learning and understanding autism, Lauri said they have been fortunate to have the support of family, friends and a family doctor that always listened.
"We as a family are very blessed to have a big extended family to give us help and hope," Lauri said.
Because of their experience and everything they have learned, the Morelands wanted to pass on their story in the hopes of helping anyone else going through a similar situation.
"The purpose of the book is for awareness to help other families," Lauri said.
In addition to talking about autism, Lauri said the book also touches on mental health and epilepsy. Lauri said Brittany had her first grand mal seizure at age 10 and some of their story is about that as well.
Anyone interested in purchasing the book can find it at Freeman Drug store in River Falls or can contact the Morelands at https://autismlm.com/.com to purchase. On Feb. 24 at 10 a.m. the Morelands will have a book signing at the River Falls Public Library.