Children diagnosed having autism to reap benefits of Moberly 5K event
Moberly Monitor-Index & Democrat - 4/8/2019
April 08-- Apr. 8--Although Brad Tregnago and Miranda Easley can celebrate knowing they were the overall male and female champions of a 3.1 mile benefit race held April 6 at Moberly's Rothwell Park, the real winners of this event are local children diagnosed having an autism disorder who will be receiving various blessings thanks to the financial support raised and to the numerous persons, and local entities that chose to volunteer and donate toward this worthy cause.
"The participation of people that took part in this year's 5k run is great and we received outstanding support from a number of local businesses and service organizations. It's been tremendous as they once again really stepped up to help this effort," said Brett Soendker, co-coordinator of the fundraiser. "On behalf of everyone involved with Unfinish3d Pieces, I give thanks to the people in this community. A goal was achieved to raise awareness about autism. While we are very grateful to the monetary support given, we also extend much gratitude to those that step up to volunteer, and to people who demonstrate their support by wearing the special blue colored shirts that represent autism nationwide as it provides public awareness and helps educate people about children having a type of autism spectrum disorder."
With the month of April designated as Autism Awareness Month across the country, Moberly's Unfinish3d Pieces organization held its second annual "5K Run & Walk for Autism Awareness" on Saturday morning.
The event attracted about 150 registered persons that journey along the paved roadway of Rothwell Park, starting near the Riley Pavilion and winding their way east across the lake dam and onward to Shelter House No. 1 before returning the same path leading to the starting point. Actual time results and order of finish from all persons participating in the 5k benefit were not documented as its purpose was to serve as a major fundraiser said Soendker. Among those volunteering at the 5K were Moberly Spartan varsity football players that provided safety by directing motorists away from the roadway used by participants and they encouraged persons as they completed their journey.
Unfinish3d Pieces organization was initially established by the Brett Soendker and his wife Nikki, and it is a 501c3 public charity in Missouri that advocates for early autism intervention, ABA Therapies and ASD parental assistance.
In addition to the Soendkers, Brett Boyer, Andie Wiesner and Eryn Vargas serve as committee members. While there has been many persons that have volunteered their time and efforts for families having ASD children, Nikki pointed out that Gina Fowler, Hannah Harlan, Carla Whitaker, Chuck and Jayme Cleavinger, and Brett Boyer's wife Brittany have all been very instrumental in the efforts with Unfinish3d Pieces.
Additional information about its purpose and services can be found online at unfinish3dpieces.org.
Nikki said more than $8,000 was raised Saturday through event registrations, and generous donations and sponsorships from those within the Moberly community area. Monies will be used to help purchase materials that will directly help the educational and some therapy needs of children in grades K-12 who have been diagnosed with an autism disorder. The funds will also support mini grants on projects submitted by Moberly special education instructors, as well as support a couple of college scholarships to be awarded to students that chose to purse a teaching degree or medical profession in a related field of autism.
The number of children being diagnosed having a type of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) that is enrolled with the Moberly Public School system has greatly risen in recent years. However, Dr. Erin Oligshlaeger, director of special services, on Monday morning said she could not provide total number of children within the school district having a type of ASD.
Soendker also said efforts are being made to extend Unfinish3d Pieces financial gatherings to support similar needs from the Westran and Cairo school districts as well in the near future.
Nikki Soendker pointed out that one out of every 59 children born today are diagnosed with autism, and the average age that a child is diagnosed is age four. Boys are about four times more often diagnosed having ASD.
"It's alarming numbers and they're growing nationwide in recent years, including here in Moberly. Because the disorder has become more understanding and recognized as the symptoms and traits associated with an autism disorder have become more well-known by the medical profession," Nikki said. "This is something that appears will not be going away, so we felt the need to step up and do something that is pro-active not only to help children with this disorder today, but for those that will follow."
Brett and Nikki Soendker are 2007 and 2008 Moberly High School graduates respectively, and they have a strong personal interest in educating the public about ASD and doing what they can to support the needs of local families having a child with ASD for the fact that they are parents to three such children; 7-year old Brody, and identical twins Peyton and Chase who are age 4. Brett's parents are Michael and Terry, and Nikki's are Bob and Sarah Hardy, all of Moberly.
"We are the proud parents of three perfectly, unique little boys who are diagnosed with ASD, and we want to use our story to help others who are going through this journey," Nikki stated. "We would like to connect with people that 'get it' because we have learned it's important to have a support system in place."
Nikki Soendker said each of their sons have been diagnosed with different forms of ASD, and as if this was not challenging enough, Soendkers also learned each of their sons have a serious heart condition called Long QT Syndrome.
Brody is considered high-functioning but needs much support in school classroom and Chase is similar. Peyton is non-verbal so every day we are trying to figure out how we can communicate with him just on basic, ordinary subjects like what to eat, drink, how he feels or hurts, the need to go to the bathroom, what he wants to play with, . He does not use words," Nikki said. "We're navigating through the fields of electronics to communicate, use of pictures and other visual means that will help identify things with him. In his world, because he cannot speak to communicate, his world is big and crazy to him so it's important for us to understand what he is going through before we can effectively help him. It's a very big challenge."
Brett said his sons have made good improvements in communicating the past couple of years and that they are learning methods to communicate with each other as well. They all have challenges in giving and receiving messages in their own way. Tough for parents to learn each child's methods of communicating because they differ.
"With this being said, I must say this has been very rewarding too as we see all of the strides they have made through therapy and help from so many people that has helped them improve and develop skills," he added.
Nikki said on behalf of Unfinish3d Pieces, the organization is excited that with monies collected from Saturday's event, there will be a $5,500 gift handed to Moberly Public School District this Friday that will be used for the purchase of a special needs robot named Milo.
This educational robot has a price tag of about $11,500 from a company named ROBOKIND LLC that creates this unique educational tool to learn essential, foundational skills by pairing evidence-based practices and technology-aided instruction for ASD students through Milo.
Nikki Soendker said last year's 5K fundraiser helped the school district purchase two Milo robots that are being used for children in grades K-2 at both South Park and North Park elementary schools. The third Milo will serve ASD students in grades 3-5 at Gratz Brown Elementary School.
Soendker said her sons being exposed to Milo has dramatically helped their well-being and social development and that she has witnessed the same from that of other children as well.
Milo delivers lessons verbally, and as it speaks, symbols are displayed on the chest meant to help students understand what it is saying. During lessons, Milo will also have students watch short video clips on tablets that display correct and incorrect behaviors to a social situation. The students then have to choose the behavioral response that best suits the social situation displayed by Milo.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. There is often nothing about how people with ASD look that sets them apart from other people, but people with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged. Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives; others need less.
According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, a diagnosis of ASD now includes several conditions that used to be diagnosed separately: autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger syndrome. These conditions are now all called autism spectrum disorder.
People with ASD often have problems with social, emotional, and communication skills. They might repeat certain behaviors and might not want change in their daily activities. Many people with ASD also have different ways of learning, paying attention, or reacting to the world around them. Signs of ASD begin during early childhood and typically last throughout a person's life.
The Center for Disease Control reports that diagnosing ASD can be difficult since there is no medical test, like a blood test, to diagnose the disorders. Doctors look at the child's behavior and development to make a diagnosis.
ASD can sometimes be detected at 18 months or younger. By age 2, a diagnosis by an experienced professional can be considered very reliable. However, many children do not receive a final diagnosis until much older. This delay means that children with ASD might not get the early help they need.
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