Autism Charity Ball bringing awareness of the disorder

Angela Chew, a licensed clinical social worker who works part-time at Dickinson Center Inc. Possibilities Autism Center in Ridgway, is shown checking some of the facility's equipment used to help treat youngsters with the disorder. Photo by Amy Cherry. In an effort to bring autism disorders to the forefront, Dickinson Center, Inc. is hosting its first Autism Awareness Charity Ball on Friday, June 3 at the Red Fern in St. Marys. The black-tie optional event begins at 6 p.m., with dinner being served at 7 p.m. In addition to live and silent auctions, Jack Garrett and The Swingin' Starz band will perform. The 10-piece orchestra from Ohio performs Big Band-style music.Those interested in purchasing tickets or making a contribution should contact Jennifer Dippold at 834-2602 or Linda White at 772-2005 ext. 1. There are two levels of sponsorship available as well. All proceeds from the event stay local, benefitting the Dickinson Center, Inc. Autism Program."We are very, very, committed to assuring that Dickinson Center continues this very important program," emphasized Linda White, autism program director.Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are a group of complex neurological developmental disabilities which are characterized by problems with communication, social interaction and patterns of interest and behavior. Symptoms range from mild to severe. Today, 1 in 110 children is diagnosed with autism, affecting four times as many boys than girls across all social classes, races and ethnic groups. While there is no cure for the disorder, intensive interventions beginning at as young an age as possible aid in bringing out the best outcome for a child.In January 2010, Dickinson Center opened Possibilities, The Autism Center, which is located on Gillis Avenue in Ridgway. The facility offers ASD diagnostic and treatment services for children up to 18 years of age. Inside the center is various play and therapy equipment utilized in such treatment options as occupational therapy, speech and language pathology, family outreach services through the center's P.L.A.Y. Project  (Play and Language for Autistic Youngsters), sensory integration therapy services, and Applied Behavioral Analysis."We recognized an increase in the prevalence of autism and that there are challenges associated with rural communities," White noted.She explained that many people from the area were traveling to Pittsburgh for an autism diagnosis and once they returned to the area, they encountered obstacles in trying to secure the services they needed or in creating a treatment plan."This was really challenging for them because there was no centralized diagnostic center that serviced rural areas. That was really the impetus for starting this whole project, was to make services more accessible to families in this area," White said.The center services a wide area encompassing Elk, Cameron, McKean, Potter, Jefferson and Clearfield counties.Over the past year, approximately 107 children have received some sort of service through the center.