Community Living in Kentucky and Growing Minds Learning Center will host an Autism Awareness Extravaganza from 3 to 6 p.m. Thursday at Growing Minds Learning Center, 1711 Destiny Lane, Suite 107 in Owensboro, Kentucky.

The afternoon will include an open house, refreshments, crafts for all ages, sensory integration play, coloring contest, dancing contest, games, a sensory swing and trampoline. Reservations are required. For more information, call 270-670-1430 or email alondon@clikgroup.com.

“No one will be without anything to do to have fun,” said CLiK Registered Behavior Technician April London.

There will be community resources for anyone who is interested, London said.

“The staff will be available to talk to family members about services we provide and community resources,” she said. “Tours will be available of our clinic.”

A type of resource families can learn about is Applied Behavior Analysis Services, said Leslie Birdwhistell, a clinical specialist at CLiK and Growing Minds.

“It’s the leading type of therapy recognized as a treatment of autism,” she said. “It’s endorsed by the U.S. Surgeon General and the American Academy of Pediatrics as an effective and evidence-based treatment for autism disorders. It shows impressible results.”

The ABA technique involves breaking down behavior into teachable parts, Birdwhistell said.

“For an early activity for a back and forth conversation we may do a song and have the child fill in the blanks,” she said. “We reward the child and gradually make the demands a little bit more as they advance new skills.”

The technique helps with more than conversations.

“We do language, social, self-help, academic, daily living skills. We look at understanding a person’s perspective,” Birdwhistell said. “We work at reducing behaviors that might make it difficult for a person to learn. There’s a whole gamut of things that we do.”

The earlier kids receive ABA therapy, the more gains they make, Birdwhistell said.

“It’s so critical to recognize and start treatment at an early age,” she said. “We treat children as early as 2 and a half.”

Government and private insurance often covers services, Birdwhistell said.

“We provide services in the clinic, in home, in the community and even in schools,” she said. “We can provide the services wherever the child needs the services.”

The Autism Awareness Extravaganza is an important event, London said.

“We want to raise awareness about autism and share with the community the services we supply on the autism spectrum,” she said. “We want to show families of children with autism that we support them.”

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