Fundraising walk a big step for autism centre

A therapy centre that helps autistic children take critical steps in their social and educational developmental is embarking on a giant leap of its own this weekend.

The Chris Rose Therapy Centre for Autism, which provides support to children with autism, pervasive development disorders, sensory or motor dysfunction and specific syndromes, holds its first-ever Walk for Autism on Saturday.

"We're all excited and we've been working very hard so we're ready to go," said the centre's executive director Wanda Carisse.

"We don't know how many people are going to come but many people have picked up pledge forms. Our hope was between 200 and 300, and I personally think we're going to get more than that."

The walk begins at 10 a.m. from the parking lot at NorKam Secondary school and follows a route that takes participants around neighbouring McArthur Island.

Participants can register in advance online at wwwChrisRoseCentre.com or onsite at the NorKam parking lot between 9 and 10 a.m. on the day of the walk.

Fundraising is one of the objectives of the event, but so is public awareness about the programs and services the centre provides.

The Chris Rose Therapy Centre has been helping children in Kamloops since 1989, back when it was still known as Giant Steps West (due to its early affiliation with a Montreal-based therapy centre). Since 2002, the centre has been known by its current name and for its in-depth, independent program that helps autistic children through various forms of therapy.

Autism is a life-long developmental disability that prevents those who have it from communicating and relating to people in a normal, effective manner.

Generally, autistic people have an impaired ability to engage in social interaction, challenges communicating and specific behavioural patterns, such as preoccupation, resistance to change, adherence to non-functional routines and stereotyped and repetitive behaviours.

It's estimated that one-in-150 people have autism, a huge jump in prevalence since Carisse started in the field many years ago when the ratio was 1-in-10,000.

"We used to talk about 'classic autism,'" said Carisse, "but now the boundaries have been stretched a bit and we talk about people as having 'autism spectrum disorder.'"

Which means many more children each year are being diagnosed.

To learn more about the spectrum, or to help support the Kamloops organization, visit Saturday's walk or pledge one of the participants.

"We definitely want people to come out and support us, as well as get some information on autism and have some fun," said Carisse.

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