Golfing for the autistic Local fundraiser shines light on disability

The Simpson Baber Foundation for the Autistic held its ninth annual Golf Classic at the Bayonne Golf Club in May, part of an effort to expand the reach of a program that has helped many autistic children over the years.

“We want to provide something for children after they have reached 21,” said Margerite S. Baber, one of the foundation’s founders.

Bayonne Medical Center Executive Director Daniel Kane came to the golf reception on May 19 to show the continued commitment of the hospital to host the foundation’s Busy Bee Program.

The Simpson Baber Foundation’s Busy Bee Program is a cooperative effort of the City of Bayonne, the Bayonne Board of Education, and Bayonne Medical Center to improve the lives of autistic children in the community.

Autism is a nightmare for parents, Baber said, because children don’t follow the usual progression you would expect. Caught up in their own mental loop, autistic children do not develop in the natural way by learning lessons from experience the way most children do. They can learn and develop, but often this is a time-consuming and very frustrating task.

Autism affects one in every 250 children. Autism impairs brain development in the areas of social interaction and communication. Symptoms could include inappropriate play, extreme social withdrawal, intense discomfort with new situations, people or surroundings, preoccupation and fixation, or behavioral problems.

Many autistic kids seem out of control, and refuse to respond to the usual techniques parents use in raising kids. Some autistic children may fall into a silent shell while others may go out of control, kicking, biting or engaging in unsafe activities.

As a result of her own son being diagnosed with autism and the many misconceptions about the disorder, she helped found the Simpson-Baber Foundation in 1996 to provide educational opportunities for kids and to educate the general public.

The Busy Bee Center for Children with Autism – the foundation’s most ambitious project – is designed to provide a place for kids 18 months to 3 years old. The program, which is open to anyone from anywhere (provided they can come to Bayonne), provides training for up to five children from September to June. The program includes everything from speech therapy to consulting pediatricians.

Expand it to adults

This year, Baber wants to expand the program, saying that the foundation needs to provide some way to help kids after they have aged out of traditional programs.

While the Bayonne school district supplies programs that teach life skills, many find services lacking once they reach 21 years old or older.

“We’re working with the Windmill Alliance for the Disabled to see what we can provide,” she said.

The key, of course, is finding jobs, and Baber hopes that local businesses and industries can find a place for the autistic.

“We can even train the person for the job,” she said.

This is the first time the golf fundraiser was held in Bayonne, and this was due to Nancy and Srini Dhulipala, who sponsored the event.

In childhood

As for the Busy Bee Center, parents often network at the school, learning techniques for dealing with their own kids from others who have tried various strategies.

Although structured like a traditional pre-school or kindergarten, Baber said the program focuses on what is fun. Whatever sparks the interest of a child, that’s what the school does. Teachers and aides ask a child’s name, trying always to make eye contact. Each time a child successfully meets the adult’s expectations, he or she is rewarded.

In 2006, Baber received the Rosalynn Carter Caregiving Award for her role in establishing and maintaining the foundation.

The foundation raises money through a variety of ways, such as the recently concluded Golf Outing and the Humanitarian Awards Dinner. In the past, the foundation has also funded walks for awareness and even an annual Sail for Autism, as well as other efforts.

For more information about donations or the foundation’s various programs or job opportunities, call (201) 858-9933.

email to Al Sullivan


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