Public Presentation and Workshops on Autism Scheduled for Next Week

Child and Adolescent Services at Bermuda Hospitals Board (BHB) is partnering with the Child Development Programme (CDP) and Bermuda Autism Support and Education (BASE) to offer a series of workshops related to autism. Dr. Rhiannon Luyster, Assistant Professor, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Emerson College in Boston, will present to both healthcare professionals and interested members of the public at end of May.

“We have been aware for some time that a service gap exists for families dealing with autism,” explains Dr. Sharon Apopa, BHB Clinical Director, Child and Adolescent Services. “Dr. Luyster will provide the necessary training for agencies within Bermuda to establish an Autism Spectrum Disorder Assessment and Diagnostic team that will address the needs of our community. Our objective is to provide resources within Bermuda for making accurate and timely diagnoses and providing early interventions to families dealing with this issue.”

Comprehensive services for children with autism do not currently exist on the Island. This means families are faced with going overseas for an assessment, which can often take months. They are further challenged when they return home because Bermuda lacks resources for dealing with the problem.

“Children on the autism spectrum who remain un-diagnosed remain at risk for developmental delays and poor academic outcomes,” Dr. Apopa adds. “In addition, a great deal of stress is placed on parents and children because of our current lack of effective treatment options There is evidence, as well, that when left untreated, some young men with autism may exhibit anti-social behaviour, which in turn may lead to incarceration. A comprehensive programme in Bermuda will provide appropriate care in a timely matter, while also addressing the needs of families who have been denied access to overseas care because they were unable to afford the costs.”

Sherri-Lee Bucci, CDP’s Coordinator, said, “Early intervention is key for improved outcomes for children diagnosed on the autism spectrum. We are continually seeking to provide the best services to our families with young children and are pleased to partner in this way to meet the needs of the community. I would like to take this opportunity to recognize the services of Allied Health in being a part of the Child Development team.”

A community presentation is scheduled for Thursday 30 May at 5:30pm at the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute. Dr. Luyster will focus on what is known about autism, while dispelling myths surrounding this condition. Parents, relatives and members of the public interested in learning about this disorder are encouraged to attend. There will be no charge for this event.

A workshop geared for educators, paraprofessionals and behavioural therapists is being offered on Friday 31, May from 9:00am to 11:00am at the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute. This event is designed for those who work with young people and are interested in learning about early warning signs. There is a $50 charge for attendance and space can be reserved by calling 239-6344.

Jenny Purvey, BASE President adds, “We are pleased to partner with BHB and the CDP to increase community awareness, improve local services and educate professions involved with the diagnosis and treatment of individuals with autism. We urge the community and professionals to attend the workshops and take advantage of this educational opportunity.”

Dr. Apopa says she is looking forward to forming a local assessment team to address the needs of Bermuda’s community. “The team, comprising a clinical psychologist, occupational therapist, speech and language pathologist, along with nurses and a child and adolescent psychiatrist or developmental paediatrician, will provide consistent treatment and meet the current gap in services to this population.”

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