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A place to learn about autism

Resources for families of autistic children presented at Skidmore College

There are numerous activities and outings for year round fun sponsored by ASPIRe.   
Photo submitted.

There are numerous activities and outings for year round fun sponsored by ASPIRe. Photo submitted.

— Not so long ago, Marks was where many confused parents are.

Marks’ son, Eric Olefson, is 27, but when he was diagnosed at the age of two with what is now known as autism there were few if any resources available to her. PDD-NOS, or Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified, was the long name for autism when Olefson was diagnosed and Marks was in search of people and places to help her son.

“Back in the late ‘80s it wasn’t as prevalent as it is now, it was a rarity and there weren’t nearly the services available as there are now. It was learn as you go,” she said.

She added that she and many other parents of autistic children would study a lot about PDD-NOS, but there wasn’t any information on the “experiential standpoint” – things for her son and other kids to do and be out in the community with others.

Marks was pointed in the direction of Yale’s Child Study Center and Dr. Fred Volkmar, the man who coined the term Asperger’s Syndrome. Asperger’s is an autism spectrum disorder and is usually attributed to those on the more high functioning side of that spectrum. From there, she sought out the best education for her son and made sure he got what he needed.

Olefson is very high functioning. He drives and has a part-time job at an area grocery store where he works in the bakery and checkout. Marks said he always had an affinity for baking while he was growing up and has been able to explore that passion through work and volunteering endeavors. She also admits that she benefits from his culinary creations, which are quite tasty.

Helping Marks with the carnival is Mary Fornabia of the Parent Network of the Capital Region, one of 13 special education parent technical assistance centers throughout the state funded by a grant from the New York State Education Department.

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