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SUNY Upstate creates puppet show to promote acceptance of children with autism

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — KidSpeak, an interactive puppet workshop created by SUNY Upstate Medical University to foster understanding and acceptance of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) in the classroom, will be introduced during a presentation titled Autism: A Parents' Perspective" Nov. 1, from 6:30 to 9 p.m., at the East Area Family YMCA, 200 Towne Drive in Fayetteville. Seating is limited and reservations are suggested. To register, call 1-888-346-8436.

KidSpeak was created by the staff at SUNY Upstate's Margaret l. Williams Developmental Evaluation Center (MLW/DEC) in cooperation with the Golisano Children's Hospital at University Hospital through a $84,985 grant from the Kohl's Foundation "Kohl's Cares for Kids Program."

"We thank Kohl's for its continued support of children with ASD and of their families," said Carroll Grant, Ph.D., director of the MLW/DEC. "A child's development is influenced by interaction with children of their own age. KidSpeak will be used first in second grade classrooms in Onondaga County to help children better understand an ASD child's experiences. We hope that this understanding will result in greater acceptance and inclusion of children with ASD in activities at school, at home and in the community."

Grant said that the puppet workshop will be offered in February to second grade teachers in Onondaga County. A companion curriculum to further address the issues of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder also will be offered. "The curriculum will help teachers and children better understand the unique learning styles of children with ASD," said Grant.

At the Nov. 1 workshop, Kohl's will present the MLW/DEC with additional funding in the amount of $98,307 in continued support of its programming. Since 2004, Kohl's has contributed to SUNY Upstate Medical University more than $258,000, with more than $180,000 benefiting children with ASD.

"Kohl's commitment to SUNY Upstate is made possible through Kohl's Cares for Kids," said Julie Gardner, senior vice president of marketing at Kohl's. "Through 2006, Kohl's has raised more than $85 million for such initiatives nationwide. The program also includes the Kohl's Kids Who Care Scholarship Program for youth volunteers, fundraising gift cards for local schools and nonprofit groups, and an associate program to encourage volunteerism."

Net profits from the sale of special merchandise at Kohl's helps supports children's health and education.

The Kohl's donation to SUNY Upstate was secured by the Upstate Medical University Foundation.

ASD includes children with classic autism, Asperger's syndrome and pervasive developmental disabilities not otherwise specified. ASD is a lifelong developmental disability that affects the way a person communicates and relates to people around them. Often people with autism spectrum disorders also have learning disabilities.

The Margaret L. Williams/Developmental Evaluation Center provides assessment, consultation and referral services for children who are at risk for or have a developmental disability.

In addition to KidSpeak, the Nov. 1 presentation will include presentations by families of children with ASD. Seating is limited and reservations are suggested. To register, call 1-888-384-8436.