Clifton Park benefit raises money in support of autism

More than $1,680 was raised for the Autism Society of America during a fundraiser Thursday, May 1, at Clifton Park Center's Aubin Gallery.

The event sponsored by Bella Maternity and Karalina's featured dinner, a raffle, book signings, an auction, face painting and balloon animals for children.

We're here to support autism, said Melissa Grattan, of Clifton Park, whose two children are autistic. "So many kids are being diagnosed with autism."

Grattan said it is important to raise awareness and funds to support the children, their teachers, and other who work with the children.

"Awareness is everything," said Cathy Cohen, who wrote the book, "Mom, Are You Listening?"

Cohen sold and signed copies of her book during the fundraiser.

The book, completed more than three years ago, chronicles her family's life raising a child with Asperger's syndrome.

Asperger's syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder. The Autism Society of America reports more than 1.5 million Americans are living with some form of autism.

In the book, Cohen writes about the "journey" her family has taken in dealing with her autistic son, Michael.

"Michael was a precious gift," Cohen said.

She said raising Michael has enriched her and her family's lives. Michael, 38, now lives by himself in Albany and works as a courier for the state.

Cohen said it is important "to share the human spirit and assimilate all of us, so we are not separated into compartmentized labels."

She said events, such as the fundraiser at Clifton Park Center, promote unity.

Cohen, who lives in Guilderland, works as a special education teacher at Albany High School and is in artist in her spare time.

"Mom, Are You Listening?" was originally printed as a part of a textbook before Cohen decided to make it its own separate book. She said Michael added to the final book before it was printed.

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