Stamford joined the rest of the world Wednesday in celebrating April 2nd as Autism Awareness Day. A special ceremony brought over 100 people to the City’s Government Center to support the cause.
“1 in 68 children born in the United States are on the autism spectrum,” says Robin Portanova, President of Stamford Education 4 Autism.
“It is an issue that we must acknowledge, educate people about, and bring awareness too,” says Stamford Mayor David Martin.
“I think when I say autism awareness, really it should be acceptance, not awareness,” says Winnie Hamilton, Superintendent of Stamford Public Schools.
The annual event is hosted by Stamford Education 4 Autism, a local non-profit dedicated to raising awareness and providing opportunities to those on the Autism spectrum. Robin Portanova, who has a son on the spectrum, founded the group in Stamford 7 years ago.
“Every year this crowd gets larger and larger and I’m standing here extremely overwhelmed,” Portanova said at Wednesday’s ceremony. “There is a lot of love in this room.”
Portanova says the organization has made great strides with strong support from the community. The non-profit now has a buddies program in two of Stamford’s public schools, with the goal of bringing it to every school in the city.
“Buddies are a group of students, those on the autism spectrum and those who are not, who have formed friendships,” says Portanova.
Stamford Public Schools has also partnered with the University of Bridgeport to implement a transition program, helping high school graduates on the spectrum achieve independence.
“While we are making progress in our public schools each year, we must also make good on our commitment to continue supporting our children on the autism spectrum even after that exit our public schools,” says Mayor Martin.
“The kids just shocked me,” says Portanova. “They’ve come such a long way. Many of them I’ve know since elementary school, many of their parents I work with; to see them now achieving their goals is amazing.”
To find out more about Stamford Education 4 Autism, visit www.stamfordeducation4autism.org