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With Autism Rising, Greenwich Parents Speak Out

GREENWICH, Conn. – Greenwich mom Lindsey Fahey is emotional as she remembers exactly when her son Bryce was diagnosed with autism.

“I probably knew at about three months that something was amiss. I have an older son and his development was not quite the same. It took longer for him to smile, he didn’t point, he didn’t ask for things. He never thought to ask anyone for anything,” said Fahey. When Bryce was 18 months, she knew she couldn’t wait. But doctors refused to see him until he was 2.

“I told them, 'I’m going to be your worst nightmare.' I said, 'You need to see my son,'” said Fahey. “He was diagnosed six months later.” Bryce was 24 months old but performed at a 9-month-old level.

“We had a lot of catching up to do,” said Fahey, overwhelmed with emotion. “In some ways, it was liberating because of all the behaviors I hadn’t known what to do with and how I couldn’t help him and finally we had a way to deal with it because we had a diagnosis.”

Fahey said she saw dramatic progress after getting help for Bryce. He is now in a preschool program and may soon be mainstreamed into a regular classroom.

She was among several parents and community members who gathered Wednesday morning at Greenwich Town Hall to mark Autism Awareness Month.

One in 88 children are being diagnosed with autism, according to a recent study by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Advocates are calling the autism numbers an “epidemic.”

Brita Darany Von Regensburg, a Greenwich resident, is the founder of Friends of Autistic People , an organization devoted to helping adults with autism fulfill their potential and lead full lives. Von Regensburg’s daughter Vanessa, who is now in her 30s and lives in a group home, aged out of vital programs once she reached the age of 21.

“When you become older, it becomes a very serious issue,” said Von Regensburg. “When the child is still in school you worry that you have to get the child all the services they need now to overcome this issue of autism. Unfortunately, most of the time, autism doesn’t go away."

The nonprofit is raising money for an estimated $3 million organic farm and working village in Greenwich to serve people with autism.

At Greenwich Town Hall, First Selectman Peter Tesei issued two proclamations to Von Regensburg and Teresa Ginsberg, special education chairman for the PTA council.

“It’s emotionally draining. It’s a very sad condition to have to confront,” said Tesei. “We’re fortunate here in Greenwich that there’s a dedicated group of people not only bringing awareness to it, but trying to get greater governmental support for not only the research, but support services.”

The Friends of Autistic People are holding a forum with U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District, on Sunday, April 29, at 1:15 p.m. at the Greenwich Education Group headquarters in Riverside.

“Parents you must realize that you have to come in droves,” said Von Regensburg. “They want to see numbers … to tell them, 'Yes, there is a problem; yes, there is an issue; and yes, the parents want action.'”

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