OSWEGO, NY – The annual “Walk for Autism” drew approximately 300 people to Leighton Elementary School and the nearby Wilber Field on Saturday afternoon.
Organizers admit the number was down from past years, but the participants were “just as dedicated as ever.”
Besides acting as a fundraiser, the event, sponsored by the Oswego County Autism Task Force, also focused attention on the plight of Autism victims in Oswego County, according to OCTAF president Theresa Familo.
The event raised about $1,300.
As the walkers paraded around the track, they dropped jigsaw puzzle pieces into a bucket at the end of each lap.
Four pieces represented 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 Tammy Thompson, the director of programs for children with special needs for Oswego County (and vice president of the task force).
“It’s because Autism is such a puzzle right now. It’s not a specific thing – it’s the Autism spectrum. So, we’re counting laps with our puzzle pieces,” she said.
Several teams had pre-registered; even more signed in Saturday morning at Leighton Elementary School.
At any given time, more than a hundred of people, young and old, were walking around the track with “another 100 or more inside the gym,” Thompson said.
“I think I counted about 10 different teams so far; ten or eleven different (team) shirts,” Familo said. There’s probably a couple more. This is a really good turnout. We really appreciate the dedication all these people have shown.”
Tina Majerus and her granddaughter Kierstyn Ford were part of the early crowd walking around the track
“This is a wonderful event,” Majerus. “We need to raise funds; but, we also really need to raise awareness about autism.”
Official sponsors of the walk included ARC of Oswego County, Little Lukes, Pemberton Associates and the Oswego County Health Department.
Vendors included: Oswego County Sheriff’s Department’s Child Safe Program, Arise, balloon art with Hayley Starr (The Balloon Lady), Air Hop Inflatables, and many others.
There were also representatives of county-wide providers of services for folks with developmental delays and disabilities.
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) 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,” Thompson explained.
Jessica Hallinan said her daughter was recently diagnosed with a sensory deprivation disorder.
“It’s actually a pretty new thing. They say that one out of 46 kids will be diagnosed with it. It’s often over looked as ADH,” she said. “It’s on the autism spectrum. Everybody here has been great helping us find services.”
The task force also presented its “Friend of Autism” award on Saturday.
“This year’s recipient is somebody who has done a lot to assist the Autism Task Force,” Familo said.
This year the honor was bestowed on the Cahill family of Scriba.
Jennifer Cahill accepted the plaque, admitting that she was surprised and humbled by the honor.
“There are a lot of more deserving people,” she said. “There are some pretty amazing people that work for the task force. We just try to do what we can to help them out.”
The Cahills are planning their fifth annual Brianna Bowl (named in honor of their daughter) for May 18.
“It will be held at Lakeview Lanes, West Broadway in Fulton, from noon to 3 p.m.,” Jennifer said. “All the proceeds go directly to the Oswego County Autism Task Force.”
For more information, or to reserve a lane, contact Bob Cahill at 315-216-6374 or [email protected]
In 2009, the inaugural “Friend of Autism” award was presented to Linda Stummer for all she has done to help families of children with autism. In 2010 it was presented to Sandy Silky and Laurie Doss of the Phoenix School District. The 2011 honoree was Vicki Affinati of Arise. In 2012, Julie Chetney was honored.
The Mexico Elementary School team was recognized for having raised the most funds ($280) and Team Germain was the winner of this year’s “Most Creative Team T-Shirt” prize.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 88 children will be diagnosed with Autism and almost 1 in 54 boys.
ASDs begin before the age of 3 and last throughout a person’s life, although symptoms may improve over time. Some children with an ASD show hints of future problems within the first few months of life. In others, symptoms might not show up until 24 months or later.
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
- Dietary 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.
As a child approaches the age of 3, the Early Intervention Program will help the family through the transition to the preschool special education program that is available through your local school district.
The preschool special education program focus how the child’s developmental delay or disability affects them educationally and begins to prepare the child for school aged services.
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.
For more information about OCATF, go to oswegocountyautism.org or call 349-3510.