Society promotes awareness and understanding of autism


One in 54 children is diagnosed with autism, according to the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“There are no official state figures,” said Janine Kruiswijk, executive director of the Autism Society of the Greater Capital Region, which serves 14 counties and hundreds of families and individuals each year.

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a wide range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and non-verbal communication. The disease changes the lives of families and is a lifelong handicap, said Kruiswijk.

“There are treatments and methods used to help people with autism with skills, but no cure. We provide services, work with the affected person, family, school and employers. for 10 years

“Within five minutes, Janine gave me information, advice, resources and guided us to a specialist school in our area,” said Shahrukh Sultan. He and his wife, Mehreen, live in Guilderland and are the parents of Mohammad Sultan Ahmed, affectionately known as “Babo”, 9, who is autistic, and Hamza, 3, who is not.

“Babo is non-verbal and lacks social skills. Self-feeding is always a challenge. He has no friends, ”said Sultan, a project manager specializing in legal discovery.

ASGCR is partnering with Albany Medical Center, which has a medical center for autism. “Someone over there refers the family to us. We help them navigate the system, including referrals to pediatricians or counselors familiar with autism,” Kruiswijk said.

The organization also offers structured life coaching, where coaches work to identify what is important in life, develop goals and, with the help of ASGCR, achieve them. “We help people with autism have better employment outcomes,” said Kruiswijk.

Autism affects all communities, all economic levels and all ethnicities. Many autistic people live independently, work and are married.

Sabeeha Rehman of New York City co-founded the New York Metropolitan Chapter of the National Autism Association in 2008 after her grandson Omar was diagnosed with autism.

“I gave up my career as a hospital administrator. I learned that grandparents have one resource that parents don’t: time,” Rehman said. “I educated myself, including attending an autism conference in Atlanta. The National Autism Association helped me form the local chapter, which has since grown and prospered.”

The chapter began with a narrow focus: to be a resource for families affected by autism, to educate and advocate.

“For example, we realized that wandering is a major problem with autistic children and that they revolve around water. Drowning is the leading cause of death in autism, ”said Rehman. “We have partnered with the New York Police Department on how to recognize and treat children. You don’t grab their arm because they might hit you. “

There is now more awareness to welcome people with autism. Rehman said that when Omar’s parents took him to get the coronavirus shot at a shopping mall, an area was set aside for children with autism. It was calm, with a minimum of color. Broadway shows now welcome people with autism by not using a strobe light during some performances. AMC Theaters have partnered with the Autism Society to deliver sensory films with low sound and lights on. On the last Sunday of the month, MiSci in Schenectady sets aside an hour for children with autism. It turns off the music, dims the lights and allows children to do activities.

“Babo is happy to participate. It is a social gathering which is acceptable for autism,” Sultan said.

“Children with sensory problems are often unable to travel. We kept Omar company so his parents could take a break, ”said Rehman.
Traveling can indeed be a challenge for children with autism, but some international airports, including Dubai Airport, are “silent airports,” Sultan said, without any boarding announcements. These are sent by SMS to passengers.

Kruiswijk manages the organization with the help of interns and volunteers. There is no government funding. It relies on grants, donations, foundation support and fundraising, including the 5K Duck Dash and Family Waddle held on October 3 in Mohawk Harbor, in which Sultan participated.

Babo is improving, says his father, and is responding better. He loves Jack Hartmann’s shows on letters and numbers, which he found all by himself on YouTube. Still, “It’s a tough climb,” Sultan said.

After Omar turned 18, his parents applied to become his guardians. At 20, he is doing “as well as one would expect given his status,” according to Rehman.

Autism Society of the Greater Capital Region

433 State St., fourth floor, Schenectady

518-355-2191 and

Kruiswijk has a 34 year old daughter with autism who lives independently in Clifton Park.

“We live in an age where disabilities are much more accepted than in the past, but we still have a long way to go for equity around disability,” said Kruiswijk. “We believe that no person with autism should be ashamed of displaying autistic tendencies.”

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