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Old 06-30-2012, 05:50 PM
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Lightbulb Support for parents of kids with autism at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center
Support for parents of kids with autism at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center
By Corinne Lestch / DAILY NEWS WRITER
Tuesday, April 26, 2011, 1:25 PM
Luz Holguin felt alone when, about nine years ago, her autistic son was tormented in a combined class of special needs students and children with behavioral problems.

Her son, Jorge Blifford, then 13, was a student at Richard R. Green High School of Teaching on the upper East Side when a 250-pound classmate pummeled him so badly he had to go to the hospital.

It's a classic story, doctors and activists say, in areas where people don't really understand the disorder, which impedes social interaction and communication. But one doctor is actively trying to reverse the trend.

Dr. Ram Kairam, head of pediatrics at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center, oversees the Autism Treatment and Advocacy Center, which opened in 2002. He said he sees about 150 autistic children a year rushed to the ER.

"Imagine what you will do to such a child if you put him in a pediatric emergency room," Kairam said. "He'll freak out."

That motivated him four years ago to start an autism parent support group, which meets the first Monday of the month. It has grown from serving a couple of parents to dozens.

"Initially people laughed at me, saying I'm crazy," he said. "I never gave up. That's where I succeeded in creating a community."

Holguin, a single mom and a social worker at Bronx-Lebanon, is one of the regular attendees. She said she can't imagine a month without the meetings.

"Speakers from legal agencies come, and it's amazing what comes out of those meetings," she said. "Many parents do not even realize the rights they have."

Other efforts have been underway in the Bronx to gain better understanding as Autism Awareness Month winds down, such as a PBS "NewsHour" segment aired last week that featured Public School 176X in Co-op City, which serves nearly 700 children with the disorder.

A charity bike ride is set for July 17 called Bridges Ride for Autism. The event is organized by Joe Bridges, principal of Public School 304 Early Childhood School in Schuylerville.

"There's a recognition of what the disease is and support for it, but there are not a lot of people out there who really understand it," said Bridges, who has an autistic nephew.

For more information on the bike fund-raiser, visit www.bridgesride

The next parent support group will be held Monday from 10 a.m. to noon at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center, 1650 Grand Concourse. For more information, call (718) 590-1800, ext. 6653.
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