Friday, August 18, 2006

Lights! Camera! Action! AUTISM

Film camp gives children with autism chance to shine
'Epidemic' sees programs popping up across the nation
By Lori Higgins
Special to the State Journal

Jake Skelly is a natural ham. Ask him what he likes best about film camp, and he'll tell you it's the moment before classes begin, when each student has a moment in the spotlight.

"I have a cool move. See, look," Jake said, demonstrating the "Macarena" groove he performed earlier in the day to "September" by Earth, Wind & Fire.

Seeing Jake so happy is gratifying for his mother, Wendy O'Connell, who hoped for years for programs like the film camp, geared toward children like Jake.

Jake, 9, is among a growing number of kids with an autism spectrum disorder -- Jake has Asperger's - which affects function of the brain, social interaction and communication skills.

"I can't sign him up to any other camp. They're not equipped to handle him," said O'Connell of Sterling Heights.

In Michigan, the number of children identified with autism has grown from 304 in 1982 to 10,133 in 2005.

Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that between 1 in 166 and 1 in 500 children have an autism spectrum disorder.

Though some of the increase is attributed to better identification of children with autism, doctors can't pinpoint a cause or explain why it is affecting so many kids.

This week's camp at Oakland University is one of many programs throughout the region that are popping up in the wake of the explosive growth.

The increase is significant enough that in the last six years, Michigan has gone from a state where only one university offered a program for teachers to be endorsed in autistic impairment to one where six schools offer such programs.

And the growth has spawned more services and support for parents of children with autism.

Five years ago, when Jake was first diagnosed, O'Connell was lost.

"There was nothing. I prayed a lot for something like this," she said of Jack's Place for Autism at OU, which provides resources and recreational activities for children with autism.

Joey Travolta, whose Joey Travolta's Entertainment Experience offers the film camp through Jack's Place, called the increase in autism an epidemic.

Travolta, the brother of actor John Travolta, was inspired by two mothers whose children have autism.

"There were no programs for their children. They would either be kicked out or not accepted," said Travolta, is director of the camp and a former special education teacher who became an actor, musician and director.

The camp, which began Aug. 7 and continues through this week, has about 30 children with an autism spectrum disorder and about 15 siblings or friends who do not have autism.

He has done two such camps this summer in other parts of the country and will do another at the University of California Los Angeles next week.

Contact Lori Higgins of the Detroit Free Press at (248) 351-3694 or
Copyright 2006 Lansing State Journal


This kind of thing has Emma Jean's name written all over it! I am going to contact this man and see if hes thought about DFW!!!

Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.
Ephesians 6:24


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