WHEELING - Augusta Levy Learning Center, the state's leading ABA treatment program for children with autism, is hosting two events in April to increase autism awareness and to raise much-needed scholarship support for children with autism.
The kick-off event to Autism Awareness Month is Augusta Levy Learning Center's 6th Annual Adult Charity Kickball Tournament on Saturday, April 13. This enjoyable annual event brings together people from all walks of life, who gather to compete for the coveted Gussie trophy, while raising funds for scholarships. Beta Theta Pi fraternity from Bethany College is the five-time defending champion, and the team to beat again this year. The event will take place from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Dimmeydale Baseball Fields in Wheeling. This year's sponsors include Bedway Development, Pete Holloway, McDonald's, Woodbine House Publishers, Panhandle Cleaning, Ohio Valley Awards, Shirts 'n More, Knights of Columbus #504, and Pike Baseball/Softball Association.
The culminating event of the month is the 5th annual Walk for Autism sponsored by the Wheeling Jesuit University Teaching Club to be held on Saturday, April 20. The event begins at 9 a.m. at the practice soccer fields near the CET on the WJU campus. There will be children's activities and raffle and auction items. Pre-registration is encouraged, and all pre-registered participants are guaranteed a t-shirt. For more information on either of these events, contact the center at (304) 242-6722, or on the web at www.augustalevylearningcenter.org.
Every 15 minutes, another family receives the devastating news that their child has an autism spectrum disorder. Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that inhibits a person's ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by extreme behavioral challenges. Autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed in one in every 88 children, affecting four times as many boys as girls. The diagnosis of autism has increased tenfold in the last decade. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called autism a national public health crisis whose cause and cure remain unknown.
"In the past 40 years, the incidence rate of autism has gone from one in every 10,000 children to one in every 50. Our country is experiencing a real health crisis," said Kathy Shapell, Augusta Levy Learning Center's executive director. "There is effective treatment for autism, and yet there is so little funding for it that most children cannot access it. Autism is a pay now or pay later kind of disorder. With treatment, children with autism have the chance to reach their maximum potential, including becoming indistinguishable from their peers; without it, they will most likely need lifelong services."
Autism treatment is available. Over 40 years of replicable research has shown that when children receive early intensive evidence-based treatment, more than 90 percent will gain skills at a higher rate than those in usual community programs, and half of them will improve to the point of losing their diagnosis and becoming indistinguishable from their peers. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the best-known and most widely-researched evidence-based treatment for children with autism. ABA can improve the socialization, language, and cognitive skills of children while reducing self-injurious, aggressive, and disruptive behaviors. To be effective, this treatment must be, at least initially, intensive, individualized, offered on a 1:1 basis, and follow the principles of the science of behavior analysis.