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San-Cap Rotarians learn about awareness of autism

May 27, 2011

First off before I write about last week’s Rotary Club speaker, I want to say it was fun to see many of you at Islands Night at Hammond Stadium last Wednesday night. It was a beautiful evening and not a drop of rain. Somebody up there was watching out for us... could it have been Sam? Lots of Islanders thought so.

This yearly event provides an opportunity to meet up with good friends and old friends, eat ballpark franks, drink ice cold beer, have a great deal of fun and root for the Miracle baseball team. On behalf of the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary and for myself, thank you to the Bailey family for continuing this Island tradition. This event was a bonafide home run.

Now on to our Rotary Club speaker for last week and her topic autism. In the last 10 years or so, possibly because of the very passionate campaign of TV and movie star, Jenny McCarthy, the general public’s awareness of autism (a neurological disorder, diagnosed in an increasing number of our children) has come to the forefront. Whether you agree with Jenny McCarthy regarding the cause of autism or not, the facts are “autism spectrum disorders (ASD) currently affect an estimated 1 in 110 children and is four times more common in boys than girls. The result of a neurological disorder affecting the functioning of the brain, autism typically appears during a child's first three years.” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2009).

Rotary’s guest speaker on autism was the Executive Director of Eden Autism Services-Florida, Susan Suarez.

What is autism? First off it’s a neurological disorder. “It is considered a spectrum disorder, meaning that its symptoms and behaviors can present themselves in a variety of combinations, from mild to severe. Children and adults with autism process and respond to information in unique ways. They typically have difficulties with verbal and nonverbal communication, social interactions and leisure or play activities. Aggressive or self-injurious behavior may also be present.”

Susan said, “There is no single cause for autism. Brain scans show differences in the shape and structure of the brain in children with autism, what that means is still being investigated within the medical community.”

There is no specific test to diagnose autism; the diagnosis is made on observation of their communication skills, behavior and developmental levels. Medical tests are used to confirm that there are no other causes for the symptoms being observed before the diagnosis of autism is given.

Parents need a great deal of help and support with children that have been diagnosed with ASD. Early intervention identifying and setting in motion a course of treatment for these children cannot cure autism but can improve the quality of their lives and the lives of their families. ASD affects the whole family.

Eden Autism Services provide a spectrum and range of community-based support and programming to enhance the lives of autism families. Eden Autism Services, Florida was founded in 1996 and follows the model in autism programming and services established at the Eden Institute in Princeton, N.J.

“Eden operates two day schools in our area, Fort Myers and Naples for children from ages 5 to 11. Clients with Autistic spectrum disorders, including Asperger’s Syndrome, receive instruction in a low student to teacher ratio to ensure an environment that maximizes each student’s potential for learning. Instructional programs are individualized and based on the teaching techniques and principles of Applied Behavior Analysis.”

Eden operates a summer camp, adult service day programs that offers training for employment, three community-based group homes. It provides outreach programing including early intervention and continued behavior modification methods; after school programming in social skills groups and athletics; and training and workshops for parents, professionals and organizations to learn about autism; along with offering consultation for families, school districts and private schools.

Eden has just recently introduced an organic farm project, The Garden of Eden, on a two-acre site for growing vegetable and fruit trees in Naples. This activity provides vocational training for Eden’s students and adults.

If you know a child or young adult that would benefit from a consultation with the professionals at Eden Autism Services-Florida, you can obtain more information by calling 239-992-4680.

The Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club meets at 7 a.m. every Friday at the Beachview Steakhouse, located at 100 Par View Drive on Sanibel. If you would like more information about Rotary or would like to attend one of our upcoming meetings, just call Shirley Jewell at 337-1099. I might just invite you to join us on Friday for a free breakfast.



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