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      Addressing autism in SC

      Columbia, SC - Parents, educators and health experts are meeting in Columbia this weekend to talk about coping with autism.

      The sometimes hard to understand and diagnose disorder is the topic of discussion at the South Carolina Autism Society's annual conference.

      Officials say 1 in 110 people are born with some kind of autism spectrum disorder. That equates to roughly 30,000 people in South Carolina. The disorder can have a different impact on each individual but is generally marked by difficulty speaking and trouble with social interaction.

      "It really depends on the child," according to Craig Stoxen with the SC Autism Society. "It's a spectrum disorder so there's no two exactly alike. So you really need to focus on a child's needs and strengths and build on those."

      Stoxen adds that South Carolina is making improvements in recognizing the autism issue and taking steps to cope with it.

      Internationally known author and autism advocate Jerry Newport was the featured speaker on Friday. Newport has Asperger's syndrome and his life story inspired the 2005 film "Mozart and the Whale," starring Josh Hartnett. The film chronicles the daily struggles and love story of Newport and his wife. Both have autism spectrum disorders.

      This year's autism conference runs through Saturday. Autism Society officials urge anyone who thinks their child is exhibiting signs of autism to contact their pediatrician.