OSWEGO, NY – The 10th annual “Walk for Autism” drew a big crowd to Leighton Elementary School and the nearby Wilber Field on Saturday afternoon.
Dozens of walkers took part in the annual fun walk to benefit the Oswego County Autism Task Force.
“The number (of walkers) seems down from past years. I thought with the great weather, the track would be packed,” OCATF member Theresa Familo said shortly after the event started.
A little while after noon, the number of participants increased significantly.
Besides acting as a fundraiser, the event, sponsored by the task force, also focused attention on the plight of people diagnosed with autism in Oswego County.
“We raised $3,100. The top winning team was Fredrick Leighton Elementary,” Tammy Thompson, the director of programs for children with special needs for Oswego County (and president of the task force). said. “Top youth fundraiser was Justin Blake and second was Hannah Petrie!”
Jjig-saw puzzle pieces are used to count laps around the track, with four pieces representing one mile. Eight pieces equaled two miles and 12 pieces meant the walker had completed the three-mile event.
The puzzle pieces are symbolic for autism, explained Thompson.
“It’s because Autism is such a puzzle right now. It’s not a specific thing – it’s the autism spectrum. So, we counting laps with our puzzle pieces,” she said.
At any given time, around 50 to 60 people, young and old, were walking around the track.
Inside the gym, another 100 or more took part in the various activities and visited the informational booths.
The gym was packed with vendors including Oswego County Sheriff’s Department’s Child Safe Program, Arise, Intragrated Counseling Services, balloon art, Air Hop Inflatables, ARC, and several other representatives of county-wide providers of services for folks with developmental delays and disabilities.
“Another great fact this year, we had two vendors who are individuals who are on the Spectrum. Leashes by Jeremy Kelley and Ben Kellog who has written e-books,” Thompson said.
Autism Spectrum Disorders is a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. People with ASDs handle information in their brain differently than other people.
ASDs are ‘spectrum disorders.’ That means ASDs affect each person in different ways and can range from very mild to severe.
People with ASDs share some similar symptoms, such as problems with social interaction. But there are differences in when the symptoms start, how severe they are and the exact nature of the symptoms.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 88 children will be diagnosed with Autism and almost 1 in 54 boys.
Medical professional say that well planned, structured teaching of specific skills is important.
The different types of treatment can generally be broken down into the following:
Behavior and Communication Approaches
Complementary and Alternative Medicine
The key is early identification of ASD.
There are many services available to Oswego County residents.
For children from birth to 3 years of age, the Early Intervention Program can help a family through the process of diagnosis and treatment.
The Early Intervention Program offers a variety of services included, Speech Therapy, Physical Therapy, Occupation Therapy, Special Instruction and other home and community based services that help both the child and family.
The key to any effective program is communication between parents and the providers or educators. Many providers of these services had tables at Saturday’s event and distributed information to the large crowd inside the gym.
OCATF is a 15-member task force that seeks to enhance the lives of those touched by Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Officers are Thompson as President, Linda Stummer, Vice President, Karen Atutis, secretary and Michele Smith, treasurer.
For more information about OCATF, visit them on Facebook.