Autism Awareness Month: Grieving parents to present

A trio of presenters will repeat a four-hour workshop given last month at Dibble's Inn in Vernon. The command performance will be held April 26 from 1 to 5 p.m. at Life of Christ Church, 5526 Rome-Taberg Road in Rome.

Supervisor John Salka (R,C,I -- Brookfield), service director for the cardiac and respiratory departments at Community Memorial Hospital of Hamilton, who also sits on the county's Public Health Committee, along with educator Lenny Giardino of the Camden Central School District and Lisa and Mike Carey, parents of 13-year-old Jonathan Carey, who died while in the care of a state-regulated facility will make the presentation.

"A Time for Us" is for parents of children with disabilities and professionals wanting to make a difference, said organizer Tammie Knight, who founded the Oneida Area Autism/Special Needs support group.

At the previous session, the Careys retold a story of bureaucratic stonewalling that kept them from obtaining information about the treatment of their son Jonathan, his behavioral modification plan and how they were eventually prevented from physically seeing their son.

Like the Careys, Salka and Knight reported difficulty in getting safe, competent educational situations for their children. Each reported being threatened with action from Child Protective Services when attempting to correct the problems.

Supervisor speaks out

"Maybe someday we can say, 'It happened in the past, but no more,'" Salka said, beginning a tale of a bumpy pursuit of a suitable educational situation for his son.

Salka, who served seven years on the Brookfield Central School District Board of Education, four of them as president, said the system has not addressed what the real problems are in educating special needs children. Salka said the issue raised is one of civil rights, not special education.

"I hope you never have to experience what my wife and I have," Salka said. "The fear and anger over our experiences with our son in the public education system."

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