At many of our awareness and fundraising events, participants ask Autism Speaks staff how our organization invests funds locally and how the local community benefits from those funds. In an effort to answer these questions, our Rochester Community Leadership Committee held its 2012 Rochester Walk Now for Autism Speaks Awards Ceremony and 2013 Walk Kick Off in conjunction with the 2013 Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network (AS-ATN) Conference at the University of Rochester (U of R) Medical Center. The purpose of combining these June 8th events was to show walkers that the work at the U of R Medical Center AS-ATN is made possible, in part, by the dollars our walkers raise for Autism Speaks. By reading about this event, we hope other walkers will be empowered to find out more about their local AS-ATN.
The day began at 8:00AM with the AS-ATN conference. Anitra Medlock, Training and Outreach Coordinator at the U of R, led the presentations with her research on transition from adolescence to adulthood for students with disabilities. Ms. Medlock emphasized the importance of early transition planning for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) to prepare them for competitive employment. She also asserted that parents and guardians should help children understand the importance of working for wages by setting a positive example in the home. Next, Lynn L. Cole, PNP, detailed the AS-ATN Toolkits that have been developed at the U of R Medical Center. Ms. Cole explained that the toolkits, which cover medication, constipation and pica, take research and translate it into resources that can be useful for families. Dr. Susan Hyman and Brianne Schmidt, RD led the third presentation, which went over diet and nutrition in children with ASD. According to Dr. Hyman, common food and feeding problems can negatively affect growth, behavior and cognition. With this in mind, Ms. Schmidt reviewed ways to supplement a child’s diet with additional nutrients, but warned parents not to use supplements in excess, as doing so can lead to adverse side effects. To conclude the conference portion, Dr. Dan Mruzek reviewed teaching toileting skills in children with ASD and shared preliminary research on the QT Wireless Moisture Pager. The study, he explained, will measure the success of using technology for toilet training versus using the standard behavioral interventions.
Following the conclusion of the conference, the program transitioned into the 2012 Rochester Awards Reception and 2013 Rochester Walk Kick Off. Walk manager Maeve MacKenzie began by applauding high fundraisers and thanking local and national sponsors, including Toys R Us and Babies R Us. Thereafter, CJ Clemont and Joshua Fidler-Sutherland spoke about their experiences as siblings of individuals with autism; Sissy Horch shared her story of receiving her son Ricky’s autism diagnosis in 2012 and the positive progress her family has made since then; and Kick Off organizer Kate Clemont closed by sharing information on getting involved in local Rochester awareness events and activities. Notably, attendees enjoyed boxed lunches provided by ArcDeli of the Arc of Monroe County, a program that trains individuals with intellectual and/or other developmental disabilities to learn skills in preparation to be gainfully employed in the local community.
Around 1:30PM, the day-long program came to a close. Attendees left the U of R Medical Center with a greater understanding of the AS-ATN research that Autism Speaks funds in the local Rochester community. It is our hope that conference attendees will feel empowered to educate the Rochester community on the AS-ATN and that they will be inspired to kick-start their 2013 walk fundraising. After all, it is partially because of our walkers that we are able to fund the U of R AS-ATN and the other 16 AS-ATN sites across the nation.
Here are some pictures from the event!