Gesa Barto, BFA Coordinator for Center for Autism Related Disorders, Orlando, Fl.
Gesa spoke to us about how grandparents can help our families who have children with autism. We also had the opportunity to discuss specific behavior problems that we observed in our grandchildren. She is a wealth of information and has made herself available to us whenever we have a problem or a question.
Chris Kelly, son of our Vice President Tish Kelly, gave us a bio on his life as a person on the spectrum. He has an engineering degree and is currently working for the New York Department of Transportation. He is a good example of what perseverance, courage, and the help of qualified people can do for you when you have a disability.
Tyler Kennedy, a student with autism who is in the Wolf Pack Mentor Program and his Mom and Dad spoke about his trials and difficulties and how he overcame them.
Guest speaker Charlotte E. Exner, Ph.D OT/L Executive Director of The Hussman Center for Adults with Autism, Towson University, Maryland.
Ms. Exner spoke about Towson University’s program that serves young adults (18 and over) who have autism and need further guidance after they leave high school.
The Towson website describes their program as follows:
Young adults transitioning from school are faced with a number of challenges, including less structured environments and fewer opportunities for socialization. There are few resources available to support young adults as they make this transition. The Center for Adults with Autism is focused on becoming an effective, integrated, interdisciplinary resource center that supports education for professionals, and links academic and community resources for young adults on the autism spectrum and their families.
The Village Angels have made a donation of $500 to Towson, which will be given out in scholarship form to two students.
Guest speakers: Special education teachers Heather Nieves and Jennifer Bourque
The teachers discussed the challenges and rewards of teaching autistic children in grades K-5.
Heather works with low functioning children. She stressed the importance of structure not only in the classroom but at home as well. Jennifer works with higher functioning children who are within 1-2 years of their academic level. Though they still have sensory and visual difficulties, learning socialization skills can be an even bigger challenge.
The teachers also discussed the fact that funds are not always available to purchase items that could improve the school experience for these children. They offered suggestions of things we could make or purchase for donation.
Guest speaker: James M. Creed, Learning Disabilities Specialist of Beacon College, Leesburg
Mr. Creed spoke about specific learning disabilities associated with Autism, communication with schools regarding such disabilities, and the difficulty of testing children with autism.