News Article Details

Autism is not about isolation

Albany Herald - 4/5/2019

April 05-- Apr. 5--ALBANY -- Thronateeska Heritage Center and Beckhom Behavioral Consulting LLC will host the fourth annual Autism Acceptance and Resource Festival Saturday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Thronateeska Heritage Center, 100 W. Roosevelt Ave.

Admission is free for the event that will feature bouncy houses and other activities for kids, prizes, giveaways, food and music. Twenty-one vendors will be on hand to display resources citizens inquire about autism.

"This event is for the community to make sure that our families are learning about what the resources are in this area," Katrina Wilburn-Beckhom, the owner and director of Beckhom Behavioral Consulting, said. "Over the years, I have had parents come to me saying that there is just nothing here in Albany for their children with special needs, particularly those with autism."

According to Beckhom, she and officials with Thronateeska have located various agencies within the surrounding region to help parents consider valuable solutions for their child's disorder.

"We are just looking to make sure families with developmental disabilities and autism feel included in this community because sometimes (families) do not," Beckhom said. "(Families) feel like because of the nature of behaviors their kids may engage in or the nature of (kids') special sensory needs, they cannot go out in public without a significant amount of support."

Beckhom said the festival is built around the idea of families feeling welcome and gaining stability concerning their child's abilities to reach for success.

"There are resources here that you have to sometimes search them out, but not on Saturday. Saturday it is a one-stop shop. That is the goal," Beckhom said.

The resources the vendors will have are information on how to get acclimated with insurance programs for children with autism, free training on music therapy and visual support, free planetarium services, summer camp programs, a waiver program that pays for families to receive an array of services, Aspire Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Services, and others

"Working with Wimberly Giaradinia, (the owner of Southwest Georgia Music Therapy), she has some very similar treatments for children and adults with special needs," Beckhom said. "(Giaradinia) uses music as a modality for teaching skills like social, cooperation and identification. On Saturday, (Giaradinia) will be training parents on what music therapy is, and how their child or loved one may benefit from it by doing a demonstration."

Staff from Chehaw park will also be in attendance, exhibiting a variety of animals to provide entertainment alongside officials from the Albany Museum of Art. For families concerned about their children as they grow into adults, there will be health care providers, according to Beckhom, to talk about support living arrangements for the individual.

"Believe me, we (Thronateeska officials and Beckhom) went looking to see who these people are that are the hidden gems that our families are not aware of," Beckhom said, noting one of the ways to bring awareness of autism to people on the outside looking in and diminish the stigma of parents who are afraid to depart from their child or leave their child in the care of others as they get older, is through education, training, and therapy.

According to Beckhom, Saturday's event will help parents not have to feel isolated or worry about their child not being a valued citizen.

"The event is such a positive experience, I would say, because no one wants to live in isolation," she said. "We all want to have friends, relationships, and access in the places we live. If (the individuals) are able to go out and be a part of what all the other kids or all the other individuals are a part of, then that has to boost self-esteem. It forces people to think about the diversity of needs of everyone involved.

"Rain or shine, the event will proceed. Beckhom Behavioral Consulting is a passion of ours to make sure the special community gets their needs met. This event is for everybody to come out and not only learn about autism, but to as well enjoy their time out."

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(c)2019 The Albany Herald, Ga.

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