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Going blue for autism awareness in Norwalk

Norwalk Reflector - 4/1/2017

April 01--Blue lights will be a common theme for Fisher-Titus Medical Center, New Beginnings Pediatrics and Fisher-Titus Behavioral Health, beginning today.

As a way to raise autism awareness and celebrate World Autism Awareness Day, Fisher-Titus Medical Center has registered as a Light It Up Blue participant with Autism Speaks, an international organization that every year on World Autism Awareness Day, which is Sunday, celebrates its international "Light It Up Blue" campaign.

"This year Fisher-Titus Medical Center will be among those globally shining bright blue lights in honor of the millions of individuals and families affected by autism," said Lorna Strayer, president of Fisher-Titus Medical Center. "An estimated one in 68 children in the U.S. is on the autism spectrum. We do this to shine a light on autism spectrum disorders and support our Autism Spectrum Kids (ASK) program at Fisher-Titus."

World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) was adopted by the United Nations in 2007 to shine a bright light on autism as a growing global health priority. Every year on World Autism Awareness Day, which is officially April 2, thousands of iconic landmarks, skyscrapers, schools, businesses and homes across the globe unite by shining bright blue lights in honor of the millions of individuals and families affected by autism. Individuals everywhere wear blue in honor of the community.

"By Lighting Fisher-Titus blue both inside and out, we are bringing awareness to our co-workers, patients, visitors and community about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges," said Lindsey Esker, speech-language pathologist and special programs coordinator at Fisher-Titus Medical Center.

New Beginnings Pediatrics and Fisher-Titus Behavioral Health will also will be participating this year. In addition, on Friday, April 7, Fisher-Titus employees will be wearing blue to bring awareness to Autism.

"New Beginnings Pediatrics thoroughly supports the Light It Up Blue Campaign and World Autism Awareness Day," said Dr. Glenn Trippe, Fisher-Titus Chief of Pediatrics and founder of New Beginnings Pediatrics. "We further support the use of screening tools for autism for every child at ages 18-24 months that should be done in every practice for every child to better detect and begin treatment for autism."

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. ASD occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups, but is almost five times more common among boys than among girls.

"Diagnosing ASD can be difficult, since there is no medical test, like a blood test, to diagnose the disorder," said Dr. Upender Gehlot, a board certified psychiatrist at Fisher-Titus Behavioral Health. "Instead, an individual's behavior, development, communication style and social skills all need to be assessed before a final diagnosis is made."

To assist physicians in diagnosing ASD, the Fisher-Titus Medical Center Pediatric Therapy Department offers an ASD evaluation if a physician suspects ASD. The evaluation includes a thorough case history and parent interview; the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule -- 2nd edition (ADOS-2), which is considered the "gold standard" for evaluating and diagnosing autism for individuals age 18 months and older; and a report of results sent to the referring physician.

Once a diagnosis is determined Fisher-Titus can provide specialized therapy services, as well as support services through the Fisher-Titus Autism Spectrum Kids (ASK) program.

ASK is a program of Fisher-Titus Medical Center Kids' Place for Therapy & Learning, a unique area designed for children's special needs that offers a variety of programs and therapeutic interventions. The Kids' Place for Therapy & Learning offers specialized therapy for children and adolescents including occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, and therapy for children with feeding disorders.

"We have an accomplished group of pediatric therapists that specialize in childhood disorders such as autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, sensory disorders, feeding disturbance, cerebral palsy, and more," said Mary Helton, Fisher-Titus director of rehabilitation.

ASK was introduced to the community in 2001 to help families and children living with autism spectrum disorder. The program offers educational seminars, referral resources, phone consultations, outreach programs, classes for children and families, and promotion of autism awareness.

In addition to providing innovative programs such as Cooking Camp, Dance Camp and Drawing on Strengths, ASK also offers specialized programs for the community such as Sensory Friendly Movies held quarterly in collaboration with Premiere Theater 8 in Norwalk and Sensory Friendly Bowling sponsored in cooperation with Kenilee Lanes in Norwalk.

The ASK program also has provided and will continue to provide education to the community regarding autism through community forums, formal education programs with national speakers, and in-services to area businesses and schools. More than 2,500 children and community members have been served through ASK programs in the last 14 years.

For more information on ASK or pediatric therapy programs, contact Lindsey Esker at 419-663-1975, Ext. 3040 or visit


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