Oswego County News Release
Oswego County Public Information Office, 46 East Bridge St., Oswego, NY 13126

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April 3, 2009

April is Autism Awareness Month

LEGISLATURE PROCLAIMS APRIL AS AUTISM AWARENESS MONTH -County Legislature Chairman Barry Leemann presents a proclamation designating April as Autism Awareness Month to Tammy Thompson, director of programs for children with special needs at the Oswego County Health Department and Julie Chetney, chair of the Oswego County Autism Task Force.

OSWEGO - The Oswego County Legislature recently proclaimed April as Autism Awareness month in an effort to promote education about the research, diagnostics, medicine, nutrition and therapies for autism and autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).

“There is a need to better understand the health and social difficulties that individuals and families living with autism face every day,” said Oswego County Legislature Chairman Barry Leemann. “This is an opportunity for all residents to support the growing successes in treatment that improve the quality of life for those families in communities throughout our county.”

The proclamation was given to Tammy Thompson, director of programs for children with special needs at the Oswego County Health Department, and Julie Chetney, chair of the Oswego County Autism Task Force.

“As the name 'autism spectrum disorder' implies, ASDs cover a wide range of behaviors and abilities,” said Thompson. “People who have ASDs differ greatly in the way they act and what they can do. No two people with ASDs will have the same symptoms.”

Autism is a life-long developmental disability. Signs of the disorder usually appear in a child's first three years and are characterized by the impaired ability to reason, interact and communicate. Indicators of slow or interrupted development of cognitive, social and language skills include a child who can put a puzzle together, but is unable to make eye contact, or a child who can say many words, but stops talking later on.

According to Thompson, it is estimated that 1 in 150 children are affected by the disorder and its cause is unclear. To date, more than 60,000 people have been diagnosed with autism or ASDs in New York State. While scientists think that genetic and environmental factors may be associated, they do not believe that parents' actions are the cause.

“The impact of having a developmental disability is immense for the families affected and for the community services that provide help and support for them,” Thompson continued. “It is important that we do all we can to identify a child's learning needs and begin intervention as early as possible to enable all children to reach their full potential.”

While there is no known cure for ASDs, early and intensive education can help children learn skills to deal with its difficult symptoms. At present, behavioral intervention is the most effective tool in managing the disorder. Essential therapies include improving a child's ability to learn, interact, play and talk. In addition, some people have found nutrition and medicine to be beneficial in the course of treatment.

Chetney added, “Through early diagnosis, intervention programs, supports and services, children and adults with autism can enjoy meaningful lives as involved members of our community. It is vital to continue educating people about autism and autism spectrum disorders.”

The Oswego County Autism Task Force will continue its campaign to raise awareness of the disorder with the third annual Family Fun Walk for Autism on Saturday, April 25.

The three-mile walk takes place from 12 to 2 p.m. at the Wilber Track and Field at the Leighton Elementary School on Buccaneer Boulevard in Oswego.

Open to the public, the event is free and offers fun for the whole family. Planned activities include face painting, balloon animals, Air Hop Inflatables and an arts and crafts area. Door prizes will be awarded throughout the day.

Autism resources including agencies, supports and services will be available for those looking for more information.

The program has been made possible through the help and generosity of the following sponsors: Reality Check; Pemberton Associates, a division of CANI Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy, P.L.L.C.; ARC of Oswego County; Little Luke's; and the Oswego County Health Department.

Registration is free and t-shirts will be available for $10 to those who pre-register. A limited number will be available on the day of the walk for $12.

For more information about autism and ASDs, or to register for the walk, call Thompson at 349-3510. Informational is also available on the Oswego County Autism Task Force Web site at www.oswegocountyautism.org.

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