PHOTO: The NYFAC Autism Center on Cross Bay Boulevard in Howard Beach. File Photo
On the heels of World Autism Awareness Day, we at The Forum were thrilled to learn that Borough President Katz had managed to allocate $1 million of her office’s discretionary capital funds for the construction of the new gym at New York Families for Autistic Children, which will cost double that to complete. Bravo, Prez! Money well spent.
Autism and other disorders in the autism spectrum, according to the latest research, affects approximately 1 in 68 children (1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls). Data collected 15 years ago indicated a much lesser prevalence of 1 in 150 children. Mindful that those children are now adults, NYFAC and other agencies must offer a wider range of services to insure that those who need it have the right kind of support throughout their lives.
Many of us know people with autism spectrum disorders, parents of autistic children who need help or a listening ear, or families struggling to get the right diagnosis for a child whose behavior might seem to fall into the spectrum. Any parent knows there is no moment, from birth until adulthood, that we don’t wish for our kids to be happy, healthy, and secure and not a time when most of us will ever stop worrying about our children’s wellbeing. Parents also know that there is no set manual on how to care for a child on a regular day, let alone in a world where that child has to handle the extra challenge of autism. That’s why we have organizations like NYFAC.
NYFAC already is a distinguished organization in Howard Beach, making great strides in the effort to keep people informed about autism and to provide services that will help those diagnosed with an ASD and their families to cope better. Studies have shown that early diagnosis and intervention increase exponentially the chances that children with an ASD will become functioning and happy adults, and NYFAC has been right at the forefront of that work since 1998. The fact that so much of it is being done at the headquarters in our own backyard is a source of great pride for us at the paper, and the capacity have its services expanded can only make us prouder.
The construction project, which will begin later this year and will be completed some time next, will allow autistic people of all ages to “work on their bodies and minds,” as CEO/Founder Andrew Baumann said. With an array of recreational programs being developed to host at the new Center for Physical Achievement – from Wiffle ball to yoga – and modified exercise equipment designed specifically for people with particular limitations, there’s little doubt the new gym will live up to its name.