The Times West Virginian

Local News

April 19, 2014

East Dale student, loyal to twin brother, promotes autism awareness

FAIRMONT — Erin Pride, 12, is a sixth-grader at East Dale Elementary School.

She likes to play basketball, is a Girl Scout and just started learning the clarinet for school band.

This Christmas, she received a rubber band bracelet loom. Rubber brand bracelets are very popular, and she started making bracelets and trading them at school.

Then she decided she wanted to do something meaningful with the bracelets, and started selling them for $1 and $2 to benefit a charity, the Corridor Chapter of the Autism Society of West Virginia (AS-WV).

This was a charity close to her heart. Her twin brother, Eddie, has autism. He’s a little loud, and he loves to talk. He especially loves reading fact books, like books on dinosaurs, or recently for school, the Titanic. He also loves playing video games, and sometimes he and his sister play together.

Things that might come naturally to other children Eddie has had to learn more directly, especially when it comes to social skills.

Eddie and Erin go to Fun Club at the Autism Training Center on Route 250 near Fairmont once a month to try and help Eddie learn those skills.

“Four times as many boys as girls have autism,” Eddie said. This means the Fun Club has plenty of boys for Eddie to make friends with.

Frances Pride, Eddie and Erin’s mom, said that the Fun Club has been very helpful for Eddie.

“They do games and learn about idioms. Kids with autism do not understand idioms,” Frances said. “They take things so literally.”

One of the first idioms Eddie learned was “hit the hay.”

“I thought it was like smacking hay,” Eddie said.

The Fun Club is an important source of support for families with autistic children.

“It’s helpful to know that you’re not alone,” Frances said. “It’s helpful for her to know that the times that are frustrating, there are other kids going through the same things she is. And it’s helpful for him to know that he isn’t alone either.”

Like all siblings, they don’t always get along. Sometimes Erin gets embarrassed by Eddie. But she is also his fiercest protector.

“Eddie wasn’t diagnosed until kindergarten,” Frances said. “And it was honestly because of her, because she helped him so much without realizing what she was doing that it was hard to see his diagnosis.”

Autism is a diagnosis that can describe a wide range of conditions, and people who are diagnosed are said to be at different points on the “autism spectrum,” and can be high- or low-functioning socially and intellectually. Many have trouble dealing with change or can be overwhelmed by stimuli, like loud noises or crowds. Some are non-verbal, while others can talk up a storm, like Eddie.

“They aren’t better or worse than any of us,” Erin said. “They’re just different and need some help.”

April is Autism Awareness Month. Erin donated the money she has collected so far to Peggy Hovatter at the Fun Club April 9.

“Her first donation was $176, and she sells the bracelets for one or two dollars,” Frances said. “She’s raised more money since she made that first donation. I put them on Facebook for her, and we even have people from as far away as Florida or Colorado Facebooking and saying please send me one.”

Erin sells the bracelets at school, at church and through her mom’s Facebook page. She loves learning new designs from YouTube and even makes her own. She’s also recently learned how to make a pencil grip, which she said is very popular at school.

Each bracelet takes 50-80 rubber bands, and they come in all kinds of bright colors. She’s also started designing bracelets for boys in camo and Steelers colors.

Frances said anyone interested in purchasing a bracelet can email her at franpride@comcast.net.

Email Colleen S. Good at cgood@timewv.com or follow her on Twitter @CSGoodTWV.

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