In honor of April as Autism Awareness Month, the Town of Babylon held a night of education at .
Representatives from the Long Island chapter of Autism Speaks and the Autism Coalition of Long Island were there to provide information on resources to families dealing with autism spectrum disorders.
Town Supervisor Steven Bellone spoke about the town’s resources. Diane Cahill, president of the Autism Coalition of Long Island also spoke on the topic.
Kathleen and Brendan Lanese, a mother and son from Kings Park, spoke about autism's impact on their family. Sarah Turkiew of Levittown sang the national anthem and performed a musical piece.
Cahill wanted the night to be about visibility for the disorder, which has a national incidence rate that has risen to the often-cited 1 out of every 110 babies born.
"There are a lot of groups out there, and they might not all agree about the causes of autism, or the role of vaccines, or the best treatments, but we've come together as a coalition to advocate for what we agree on: needing more awareness and more resources and funds devoted to the issue," Cahill said.
About 50 people attended the event on April 13, with many sporting blue hair extensions as part of a national campaign by various autism advocacy groups to highlight autism awareness. Concerned family members from the Town of Babylon attended and were looking to give and get support.
"There are so many resources out there, but many families don't know where or how to look," said resident Carol Welter.
She continued: "My grandson was diagnosed at age three, but many families aren't getting their children diagnosed early enough. For parents and family members, support groups and advocacy groups are so important, to meet people who know what you are going through."
Bellone said the town offers many resources families can use, such as a free day at town spray parks – like those the ones at Venetian Shores in Lindenhurst and Tanner Park in nearby Copiague – for affected families.
The supervisor also cited a new sensory play piece installed at Phelps Lane playground in North Babylon, as well as the BRIDGE program at the Babylon Town Hall Annex that offers free parent and sibling support groups and social skills counseling to town residents.
"We don't know why autism is on the rise and what causes it, but we try to do everything we can to support these amazing families," Bellone said.
Bellone presented Cahill, Turkiew, and Kathleen and Brendan Lanese with certificates honoring their commitment and advocacy work.
For those seeking more information, Autism Speaks has a list of New York resources on its website.
For more information about the town BRIDGE program call 631-422-7653.