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Autism support group aims to increase disorder awareness

Published:Thursday | April 19, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Alessandro Boyd, Gleaner Writer

THE JAMAICA Autism Support Association (JASA) has bolstered its efforts to raise awareness during Autism Month, which is being observed in April.

JASA is a support group, primarly made up of parents whose children have autism. It was formed in June 2007.

"I'm a parent of a child with autism. He was dignosed in 2005, and I didn't have anybody to talk to or guide me through the ropes of this disorder. When I met my co-founder it was very refreshing as we understood what each other was going through. We started to meet with a few other parents. We met at therapy and became a little group, we then decided to open it up nationally," said Kathy Chang, president and co-founder of JASA.

The group now consists of close to 200 parents, caregivers and professionals who meet every last Saturday at the YMCA, St Andrew, to encourage and support each, other. 'Surfing for Autism', the balloon release, an annual church service and conducting discussions with different groups are among the activities for autism awareness month.


JASA designed 'Surfing for Autism' to bring an innovative form of therapy for children with autism. The Digicel Foundation was among the sponsors and also had members of their staff providing voluntary services.

Samantha Chantrelle, executive director of the Digicel Foundation said her company is committed to children with special needs.

"One of the main things we want to do is raise awareness and inform Jamaica about some of the needs that they have and how we can integrate that more into our society. Special needs is one of our main areas as we are also committed to building three Centres of Excellence for children with special needs," Chantrelle said.

She added: "Surfing for Autism was a day of fun for the kids with autism. Surfing and other water activities are great for kids with autism as they enjoy doing it; it also helps with their sensory stimulation issues."

The event was held in conjunction with the Rotary Club of Trafalgar and the Jamaica Surfing Association at the Cable Hut Beach on March 24, in preparation for Autism Awareness Month. About 50 families attended.