To end Autism Awareness Month on a high note, the Student Occupational Therapy Association (SOTA) hosted the event Breakfast For Families with Children with Autism, otherwise known as BFF Breakfast.
The event was held on Sunday, April 30, 2017, in the Miron Student Center from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
"BFF Breakfast is an event that SOTA hosts every spring," commented Katie Arena, the president of the club. She is also a graduate student pursuing a Master's in Occupational Therapy.
"This event is an opportunity for families with children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder to enjoy a meal together and socialize with other families and Kean University students," Arena continued.
During the event, children participated in a variety of games and activities with SOTA volunteers while the adults were able to listen to a keynote speaker speak on self-care while taking care of their children.
Arena mentioned that this is the sixth year SOTA has hosted this event and received "positive feedback from families that have attended the event." The event is meant to spread awareness of autism, as well as provide parent and other caregivers or clinicians with support and an engaging atmosphere.
For those who do not know what autism is and the spectrum, Arena thoroughly explained:
"It is a spectrum because each individual is different and their symptoms can range from mild to severe causing the individuals to have different abilities and disabilities. Some of the more common symptoms are difficulty communicating with others, repetitive behaviors, limited interests or activities, echolalia (repeating words of phrases), difficulties adjusting to changes in their routines and difficulty understanding abstract ideas."
BFF is a way to not only help spread awareness about autism but help provide more information to parents about the disorder.
"BFF is an educational experience for everyone in attendance: parents, children and volunteers," Arena shared. "Each year, the guest speaker gives a presentation to the parents on a different topic related to autism. Some previous topics have included sensory integration and managing behaviors."
As the keynote speaker spoke to a room filled with parents and caregivers, children had exposure to therapeutic activities and were able to work on their social skills. This gives a chance for the volunteers to learn how to work with an autistic child (prior to the event volunteers had to attend a training session).
Because a parent spends so much time and money to give their child many opportunities to grow and prosper, other relationships are affected like a marriage or the relationship between a parent and another sibling. But there are support groups, like BFF, specifically designed to help parents deal with situations like that.
To SOTA, this event is a tradition.
"Providing education, as well as resources to those within our community, is part of Occupational Therapy's domain of practice. This event allows for a collaboration between the members of the community and Kean's SOTA members," says Arena.
She ensures with each year, comes expansion as more and more families hear about BFF from previous attendees. Because of its continuing expansion, there is no doubt that SOTA will be back at it again next year.
For more information about autism, visit the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH). For more information about SOTA and how to join, reach out to the group by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.