Monday, April 6, 2015
By JERRY WOLFFE
Blue lights shone into the night sky as “Light It Up Blue” was celebrated worldwide, including at MORC in Clinton Township, to increase awareness of autism, a developmental disability affecting more children every year.
At the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center along 19 Mile Road between Hayes and Garfield there were 120 large balloons with lights inside on the lawn Thursday night to garner the attention of passersby to mark the Eighth Annual Worldwide Autism Awareness Day. April is also autism awareness month.
Project Director Patricia Sims Sunisloe and several other workers at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center set up the balloons in windy and rainy conditions to catch the attention of the public.
The MORC cafeteria in Clinton Township served chilled blueberry soup and gave workers and visitors Blue Moon ice cream until the supply was exhausted. At the nonprofit’s Auburn Hills office blue candy was given to help people realize the impact autism is having on America as well as the world.
There are 3.5 million people in the United States and 70 million worldwide who have autism, a term for a group of complex disorders of brain development. The disorder is characterized by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behavior, according to the nonprofit Autism Speaks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 1 in 68 children being born today have autism. The number for newborn boys is higher with the rate being being 1 in 42 births. It costs about $60,000 a year to provide treatment for each child with autism, the Website Autism Speaks noted.
“We put up all the blue balloons to try and increase awareness and support those with the lifelong disability,” said Sims Sunisloe. MORC has two autism treatment center, one in Clinton Township and the other in Troy. “Therefore I felt we had an obligation to join with people around the world to ‘Light It Up Blue,’” said Sims Sunisloe.
Since 2000, the number of children born with autism has increased 119.4 percent, or more than double, according to the CDC. Costs of treatment in the United States are estimated at between $236 billion to $262 billion a year.
“Given the rise in the increase of autism, it is important for the public to be welcoming and accepting of those with differing abilities, including autism, and to have some knowledge of autism,” said Diane Lindsay, the Director of Select and Clinical Supports at MORC, which serves 4,300 people with disabilities in southeastern Michigan.
“It’s good to increase awareness,” said Julia Whitcher, the Supports Intensity Scale Assessment Coordinator at MORC. The SIS is a tool to evaluate the type of supports an individual with a disability needs to live to his or her optimum level.
“If more people knew about autism, they’d contribute more toward research and better support for the families who have children with the disorder.”
One of the treatments for those with autism is Applied Behavioral Analysis, said Maddie Wedyke, an ABA technician who works at the Clinton Township Autism Center.
Last April, the federal government decided to pay for treatment for children from newborns to age 6. It is hoped the program will be expanded to those who are older than six.
“We try to reduce behaviors and prepare the children we are working with for school so they can be mainstreamed into regular classrooms,” said Wedyke. “We currently have 17 children receiving treatment at the Clinton center which has been open for two years.
“I’ve seen improvement in some of the children we’ve helped.
“We work on daily living skills such as brushing teeth, zipping up jackets and teaching the children to feed themselves.”
Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence and advocate-at-large at MORC. He can be reached at 586 263 8950.