Credit state Sen. Jeremy Ring for creating the "Facebook of Autism" — my phrase, not his.
He has developed a free Website so families with children affected by chronic behavioral disorders can interact and communicate more effectively with school teachers and professional caregivers about their child's behavior around-the-clock.
"Parents don't know what a child is doing at school, teachers don't know what a student is doing at home, and a therapist may only see a child once a week," Ring said. "We give parents and everyone on their care team a 360-degree view of a child's day."
Inspired by everyday experiences with his own child, Ring launched Mercurian.com in April, creating an online support system for families struggling to maximize the care and information they have so their own children have the best shot at learning, progressing and playing like any other child.
"The cure to anything in life is data," said Ring, of Parkland, a former executive at Yahoo.com who serves on the K-12 Subcommittee Appropriations for the Florida Senate. "The hope is once you have enough data in place, you should intuitively be able to predict certain behavior, like what causes tantrums, and then work to combat that."
Mercurian.com is a Web-based healthcare management platform. Parents set up personalized profile pages which organize family care teams — made up of anyone who attends to a child, including relatives, therapists, physicians and teachers. Team members share daily or hourly status updates on a child's behavior as they each experience it and help identify causes.
As with Facebook, users control the online experience. Parents solely select who joins the group and authorize how much personal information can be viewed and/or edited.
Ring points out that unlike Facebook, Mercurian.com profiles are closed, secure and compliant with patient privacy laws.
Dr. Jeffrey P. Brosco, professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said the site holds "extraordinary potential for families to discover what exactly helps their child learn and behave by tracking specific behaviors over time. He added: "When linked to potential triggers or treatments, such as foods or medicines, this data can help a family and their clinician unearth what works and what doesn't."
Count Marlen Veliz as a believer — and user.
Autism robbed her 12-year-old daughter, Melissa, of speech and mobility, but not of spirit or desire to learn. And Mercurian.com is teaching Marlen more about her own daughter "It's truly making life easier, and happier, for us," said the elementary school teacher from Weston.
By charting her daughter's behavior at school, Veliz can learn how an unexpected substitute teacher or scheduled math quiz could lead to breakdowns. "When I know those events are coming, I can prepare her ahead of time. When she can visualize what is coming, she is less likely to overact," Veliz said, noting that since using Mercurian.com Melissa's tantrum counts have decreased.
"For a parent like me," she said, "input and results like this are worth more than I can say."
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