Strength in Numbers

What: Autism Awareness Community Event
When: Saturday, June 14th
12 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: St. James Community Center
4136 Southport-Supply Rd., St. James
Cost: FREE
Info: www.facebook.com/puttogetherthepieces

Put together the pieces, the Autism/Asperger’s Support Group of Southeast North Carolina will hold the second annual Autism/Asperger’s Awareness Community event, Saturday, June 14th, from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the St. James Community Center. Dina Scalia, mother of three special-needs children and member of the Southeast Brunswick Civitan Club is founder of Put Together the Pieces; Scalia says the group was established as a branch of the Autism/Asperger’s Support Group (AASG) based out of Southport.

Put Together the Pieces, the Autism/Asperger's Support Group of Southeast NC, routinely holds fundraisers and events such as the Autism Awareness Walk held in October 2013 (pictured) and again in April 2014. This month the group will hold a community awareness event on June 14th. Courtesy photo

Put Together the Pieces, the Autism/Asperger’s Support Group of Southeast NC, routinely holds fundraisers and events such as the Autism Awareness Walk held in October 2013 (pictured) and again in April 2014. This month the group will hold a community awareness event on June 14th. Courtesy photo

The AASG organization offers support and opportunities for families to connect with others with similar experiences. Additionally, Put Together the Pieces’ focus is to go beyond just the families and educate the whole community about Autism and Asperger’s—“not just the autism spectrum family,” Scalia says.

The combined group’s efforts are “to give families the resources they need as well as support, information, friendship and understanding—a place never to feel alone,” Scalia informs. “Educating the community is fundamental in gaining support and understanding, as well as acceptance of an ever-growing population, ultimately reducing the amount of bullying the children experience and endure: United we can put together the pieces.”

The event is free to the public and will feature arts and crafts, games, informational hand-outs and raffles. This year’s participants to date include the Brunswick County Sherriff’s Child I.D. and Safety program; the Southeast Brunswick Civitan Club; Amy English, yoga instructor; Surfers Healing; Perri Smith, bongo drums and musician provided by the Boiling Spring Lakes Parks and Recreation E.C. program; Monica Savidge, Social Security Disability Attorney; Communities in Schools; Pretty in Paint Parties with Mert Wray; Stephanie Jones, parent education and consultation for parents and professionals; Exceptional Children’s Assistance Center; Janice Florio, O.T. and Oasis.

The event is sponsored by Andy Beachum and Dairy Queen. The group’s long-term goal is to become a non-profit organization. Funding for all materials and events has been provided by fundraisers at Tropical Smoothie Café in Southport and Cape Fear Fitness. Other activities include Awareness Walks held in April and October. An IEP (Independent Education Plan) workshop is held in August. The group is also open to give presentations to those interested, provided by Scalia and Heather Winterbottom, parent advocates.

One out of 68 children are diagnosed within the autism spectrum, Scalia reveals, and the goal is to help families not be afraid of the diagnosis, offering support, resources, and therapy. Put Together the Pieces seeks to create a broader understanding and education of some of the communicative and social challenges, to better serve children and young adults in the spectrum, helping them function and share their gifts in school, in the work force and in life.

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