By Jennifer Ortiz
HOWELL — A workshop addressing autism and safety will be held from 6-8:30 p.m. Jan. 26 at the Howell Library, 318 Old Tavern Road.
“Hidden Dangers – Keeping Children and Adults with Developmental Disabilities Safe” is open to residents of all towns, according to Cristy Mangano, the parent who recently asked the Howell K-8 School District Board of Education for permission to hold the workshop.
Mangano said she read about a 5-year-old Pennsylvania boy who had autism who was found dead in a canal after he wandered away from a New Year’s Eve party. She said she wanted to prevent that type of incident from happening again.
“After the recent tragedy … it’s something I think needs to be addressed,” Mangano told board members. “Being the mother of a child with autism, there is always fear that my son can be in an unsafe situation. The best way to prevent these situations is to be educated and have as much knowledge as possible about how to prevent them. I want our community to be knowledgeable about how to handle situations like this and how to make sure they don’t happen.”
Mangano reached out to Parents of Autistic Children (POAC) and asked the group to hold a workshop in Howell.
“They were eager to set up the workshop and made it happen very quickly. They are a great resource for all kinds of topics when it comes to autism,” she said.
Howell Police Chief Andrew Kudrick and Sgt. Joseph Markulic will help to promote the event.
Those who attend can expect to learn how to handle wandering, GPS tracking devices that are available, emergency preparedness, fire safety issues, transportation and bus issues, physical modifications at home and at school to keep children safe, and Internet safety and bullying, among other topics. Behavioral issues will also be discussed.
“Resources that are available to families … will be spoken about as well,” Mangano said. “Whether you are a parent, a grandparent, aunt, uncle, neighbor, police officer, teacher, fireman or EMS, we all need to really educate ourselves about autism and all the things it comes with. Sadly, until tragedy strikes it is something people think they know about, but they really don’t. Autism is such a huge spectrum and I think (the workshop) will touch on all the different techniques to handle different situations.”
Mangano is a member of the New Jersey Autism Warriors page on Facebook and she said the page is a great resource for parents of children with autism.
The Jan. 26 workshop at the library is free. Those interested in attending are asked to register at http://events.constantcontact.com/register/event?llr=hdhvoqiab&oeidk=a07ec2vz87s8b4ca6b1. Walk-ins are also welcome.
School board President Tim O’Brien applauded Mangano for her leadership on this issue and Superintendent of Schools Joseph Isola agreed to help spread the word about the workshop.
Mangano said the more awareness there is about autism, the better.
“You do not have to have a child with autism to attend this meeting. Everyone is welcome,” she said.