Autism walk set for Saturday at Sonora Centre

By on April 2, 2014
Walkers start out from the Sonora Community Centre is last year’s Osoyoos Autism Behavioural Centre Walk for Awareness in this file photo. It was sprinkling with rain last year and this year’s event will take place rain or shine. There will be family entertainment in the gym prior to the walk. Some walkers have pledge sheets to raise donations for the OABC. (Richard McGuire file photo)

Walkers start out from the Sonora Community Centre is last year’s Osoyoos Autism Behavioural Centre Walk for Awareness in this file photo. It was sprinkling with rain last year and this year’s event will take place rain or shine. There will be family entertainment in the gym prior to the walk. Some walkers have pledge sheets to raise donations for the OABC. (Richard McGuire file photo)

The Osoyoos Autism Behavioural Centre (OABC) is holding its second annual Walk for Awareness on Saturday, bringing together local families affected by autism.

Organizer Kim Dragseth expects a larger turnout this year than last because the OABC has been reaching out more into the community and because some out-of-town people are expected to participate.

“We’ve been doing all the support groups and we’ve been out there in the community a lot more, so there’s a lot more contact,” said Dragseth. “A lot more people have joined our group.”

The event gets underway at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 5 at the Sonora Community Centre when doors open. Equipment will be set up for free play in the gym.

The walk itself starts at noon and there are 3 km and 5 km routes through the town. The event takes place rain or shine and hydration stations along the route are being provided by local businesses.

Some walkers are being sponsored, but Dragseth said fundraising is not the main purpose of the walk, even though OABC does need to raise funds to cover expenses.

Rather, the purpose is to bring families together, get the children playing together and listening to music and having a fun time.

Live music with the OABC band and Sadie Campbell from Vancouver will be playing throughout the day.

There will also be superhero characters interacting with the children and information booths and merchandise for parents.

Throughout the year, the support group organizes social play for children and brings in guest speakers.

“The support groups also offer a nonjudgmental listening ear with other parents or family members that are in the same situation,” Dragseth said.

Autism, which takes several forms, is a neural development disorder that can impair social interaction and verbal and non-verbal communication. It is normally identified in children before age three.

“In our community, I would like people to know that it’s not something that you need to be afraid of or worried about,” said Dragseth. “It’s something that can be helped with the right contacts and the right support. Our community has proven that with me and my family and my sons doing so well.”

For parents who have children affected by autism, there are many challenges in the beginning because they may not know much about the condition, Dragseth said. The speech and language and the social aspect add to the challenge.

“They don’t know how to speak with the other children or ask for what they want, and you’re not understanding,” she said. “You’re not knowing what your child is wanting, so you’re wanting to help them, but they can’t tell you and so it’s very difficult in the beginning.”

Once parents get a diagnosis, however, and start asking for help, it becomes easier to adjust, she said.

RICHARD McGUIRE

Osoyoos Times

 

 

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