April is National Autism Awareness Month, and for those affected by the condition in Diamond Bar, there is a local group that brings attention to autism year round.
“The support group is for San Gabriel Valley parents, from San Gabriel to Whittier to San Dimas to Pomona,” said Diamond Bar resident Gina Rivera. “Right now, we have 89 parents on Facebook, and about 12 that participate in our private in-home coffee talks. We really just vent, support, and laugh.”
According to the Autism Society, autism is a “complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a ‘spectrum disorder’ that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees.’” There is no known single cause for autism.
Through the San Gabriel Valley Special Needs Support Group, members learn about the latest news and treatments for autism.
“There are so many things that parents of children with autism do not know exist,” Rivera said. “ABA, floor therapy, respite care, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and many, many, more. These are the things we discuss. We advocate, inform, teach and support each other.”
The members are there for one another even when the meetings are over.
“Sometimes there are tears or we have to run over and babysit for an hour so parents can get themselves back together or get to a last minute dental appointment,” Rivera said.
Rivera has four children, and two have autism. Her seventeen-year-old son has Asperger’s, and her three-year-old was diagnosed with autism at 14 months.
“I have to fight everyday to get her the services she needs,” Rivera said.
Rivera and her friends from the autism community fundraise and participate in events that further awareness. In Los Angeles County, an Autism Walk will take place at the Rose Bowl April 21.
“There are so many fundraising efforts currently in action just to get research done for our kids, not to mention the thousands of dollars needed to provide services for our kids with autism,” Rivera said.
Rivera herself participates in the Autism Speaks Walk in Orange County, which will be held at Angel Stadium in Anaheim. To donate to her cause, click here.