‘An Evening for Autism’ Gives Hope to Families

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Last year’s ‘Evening for Autism’ drew an enthusiastic crowd of supporters.

This Saturday evening I will have the great privilege to be the official media host for “An Evening for Autism,” a charity event being held at the exquisite Belcourt residence of businessman and philanthropist Barry Saywitz.

Saywitz, who has hosted the event at his home for the past three years, knows firsthand the effect that a diagnosis of autism has on a child’s life, as well as a family’s. His son Ryan was diagnosed a little more than five years ago, and since that time, Saywitz has devoted his life to not only helping improve his son’s life, but also those of countless other children and families living with autism.

“I never expected I’d have a child with special needs,” says Saywitz. “When Ryan was first diagnosed, I really had no idea what autism was, what the symptoms were or how to deal with it. While my initial reaction was denial, once I recognized the difficulties my son was having, I made a conscious decision to find out all I could about autism and what treatments were available.”

Ryan’s symptoms included having trouble with learning and social interaction, as well as eating and digestion.  Saywitz delved in to researching every ounce of information he could find on autism that would help him address Ryan’s condition.  Once he understood the complexities, he was able to reach out to the Regional Center of Orange County, which provided private therapy sessions with an autism specialist as well as a gastroenterologist.  A combination of behavioral and occupational therapies was implemented to help improve Ryan’s social and learning deficiencies, as well as a special diet.

When Ryan turned 3, his parents enrolled him in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District’s Starfish and Seahorse Program, specially designed to address the needs of children with autism.  When he saw that all of the kids in the class had varying degrees of autism, Saywitz says that he began to feel a connection with the other parents.

That connection included mutual compassion, and today it is the fiber that brings them together to support the 3rd annual Evening for Autism.  The event will raise money and awareness for charities and organizations including ACT Today! (Autism Care and Treatment Today), Autism Society of America (ASA), Easter Seals Southern California, and Talk About Curing Autism (TACA), which all provide services to people and children with autism.  Proceeds from the event will also benefit Newport-Mesa School District’s autism programs.

Guests of the event Saturday night are in for a real treat. Saywitz pulls out all the stops for supporters at the first-class shindig, with four live bands, pool tables, pinball machines, video games, a golf putting green, eight beverage bars and a mini-“Taste of Orange County” with a host of popular restaurants serving appetizers and desserts. Silent and live auctions will raise funds and add to the fun.  More than 600 supporters, including local business and political leaders, celebrities and athletes, will be in attendance.

In the meantime, Ryan continues to show great progress thanks to the love and support of his parents, teachers and the community. Through increased social interaction with the teachers and the other students, he has been able to significantly increase his social skills. Today he is enrolled in a regular school program, is the only child in the class with autism, and his proud papa says, “is excelling tremendously.“

Tickets to An Evening for Autism Charity Event are still available. For more information or to purchase tickets log on to www.aneveningforautism.com or call 714-834-1111, Ext 221.

Lynn Selich is a freelance columnist and public relations consultant.  She can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Facebook at Lynn Selich-Columnist.

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