By Bob Harris
Victoria Valdes and her fiance Aaron Eason were devastated, confused and frustrated when they discovered four years ago that their 2-year-old son, Joseph Valdes, had autism. Out of a desire to do something, they created a foundation called I Am Not My Autism. Look carefully at the name and understand what they are saying.
The foundation has been set up to help other people who suddenly have the problem of caring for an autistic child with all the changes it brings. They want to spread information and express the needs and wants of the children. They believe every child is an individual and a diagnosis should not define them as a person. They want more programs for autistic children and want families to help each other and want to share information.
The photo shows the first gathering of I Am Not My Autism in Cunningham Park, just east of the flag pole and the community center. Shown are the Valdes and Eason families with friends, interested people and teachers from P9 @ PS 882, which Joseph attends. Money collected is being donated to P9. Modell’s and Addidas donated materials which were given to those in attendance.
People gathered to do a walk, obtain autism T-shirts, receive medals for walking, enjoy refreshments and talk. Many of the attendees went to the Autism Speaks Walk at Citi Field. For information, contact Valdes at 347-703-3826.
April was Autism Awareness Month, so there were many stories in the media. It is an epidemic affecting roughly 1 in 88 boys. There are different symptoms and many causes. If a child withdraws into himself, stops talking and makes sounds, then you have a problem. They do not know the causes, but there is much research and solutions are being found.
Early intervention before two years of age can bring wonderful results. My grandson has been helped. All can learn and high-functioning autistic children can be bright, learn a great deal and go on to college. Children may need one-on-one assistance from an aide who makes that child focus, stop making noises and learn to speak again.
Parents must learn about the many programs available. They must fight for the program which is best for their child. They must understand that treatment is expensive and the city Department of Education would like to mainstream the special needs children to save money on programs and staff.
Parents must understand that they can have another parent come to meetings with them. Some even hire a lawyer or an advocate if they think the DOE is stonewalling them. They must put pressure to get all the services they need for their child. With proper help children can improve a great deal.
Parents must fight for all the help their child needs. The DOE and some charter school operators want to do less, which is why some kindergarten special needs children are being expelled from school for acting out. The right program will meet the needs of a child when there is a trained teacher.