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May 3, 2022

Walk/Run/Dance Concludes Autism Month 2022

Hundreds of Belizeans turned out across the country and simultaneously participated in a walk to conclude Autism Month 2022. In Belize City, the biggest group yet came out; signaling that awareness about autism is alive. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

Government officials, families, friends, persons living with autism and even students – hundreds of persons converged at the Digi Park on Newtown Barracks on Saturday. After a warm up with Karen Rosito, they walked, danced and ran through the streets towards the Baron Bliss Lighthouse and back. It was a celebration – or an acceptance for some – of autism.

 

Christy Castillo Almeida

Christy Castillo Almeida, Founder/Executive Chair, Autism Belize

“I am so extremely happy, I am grateful for all the town and city councilors for helping in the different districts to plan everything for it and the community that’s come out.”

 

The Stephen family came out with their autistic son, eight-year-old Eric, who participated for a second time. It was a heart-warming experience for the family who shared what it is like to take care of their amazing son who is living with autism.

 

Jocelle Stephen

Jocelle Stephen, Mother of Eric Stephen

“It’s both challenging and it is also rewarding. There are there when you honestly feel like giving up, but when you look at him and you look at his smile, you just have to keep going. The pandemic, we have seen the good and the bad in it. So for example Eric is now fully potty trained, but of course the challenge has been education-wise. We’ve unfortunately had to stop that and change a lot of daycares and care givers so that’s where the challenge lies. But actually, we managed to do online speech therapy. And while he wasn’t able to perform in the online episodes, we were able to learn really important measures that we could have applied. So, techniques and coping skills and how to build his vocab. He is really good with echolalia now so it is like a really big difference in terms of his speech. While he still may not be able to ask for certain things, he still may use a lot of sign or stuff, he is able to repeat phrases so you can see that his vocab is widening.”

 

Students from Saint John’s College and Edward P. Yorke High School attended the walk this year. Counselor Sampson Jacobs says it’s about creating that awareness among the students.

 

Sampson Jacobs

Sampson Jacobs, Counselor, E.P. Yorke High School

“This was an initiative from my vice principal Miss Josephine Flowers and she wanted to build that awareness in our students to support not only Autism Belize, but the Cancer Society and whatever. So we extended this invitation specifically to fourth year students. It is an event; it is the first time for us so we are looking forward to the future.”

 

Micah Goodin

Micah Goodin, Deputy Mayor, Belize City Council

“I think it is important for us to send a clear message that we stand with those who are faced with autism and we want them to know that they have our full support and that as a city that we want to continue show them support. And so today is a day of solidarity for us. We are out here in solidarity with the family members, with the persons suffering from this condition.”

 

Founder of Autism Belize Christy Castillo Almeida says that while the awareness is really taking off, there is more to be done.

 

Christy Castillo Almeida

“I think we still need to do more of the teaching. This month, we did like twenty-two presentations to companies that invited us in. And after every one, you had so many people say okay I didn’t know that. Like I thought I knew but wow you opened our eyes to things. That’s twenty-two out of how many companies and places. So, I think that there are steps to this. You got your awareness and then there is acceptance and then we’re looking at true inclusion. And I think we still have the education part to do, to explain more about what it is.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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