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Doing it all for Benjamin

SARANAC The Bassetts knew something wasnt quite right when their son, Benjamin, began to rapidly regress in his development. He was growing and developing like a typical child, he had vocabulary. Then, he just turned a corner, said his mother, Karen. It was in 2006, when Benjamin was 18 months old, that his mother and his father, Steve, first noticed the change. Within four months, Benjamin had lost all his vocabulary skills, his ability to make eye contact with those communicating with him and lost his interest in wanting to play with others. He had just gone into a world of his own, said Karen. The Bassetts had their son examined and after a second opinion, they came to grips with the reality that Benjamin has autism. They began enrolling him in early intervention services and speech therapy to counteract his disorder, though the services resulted in slow progress. In September 2007, Karen and Steve thought enrolling Benjamin in part-time pre-school would help his interaction with children, but it had just the opposite effect. That didnt work. He just kept having meltdowns, said Karen. In one of her late nights of staying up researching autism, Karen stumbled upon The Son-Rise Program, offered through the Autism Treatment Center of America in Sheffield, Mass. The program, explained Karen, teaches parents a method that is meant to reverse the anti-social characteristics of autism, that they can use in their own home setting. The method involved creating a room in their home that allows for them to interact with Benjamin that is free of distractions. The walls are white, theres no toys on the floor. Everythings on a shelf out of his reach, said Karen. So, he has to use language or some form of communication to get what he wants. Since the Bassetts started the teaching of The Son-Rise Program with their son which involves constant positive reinforcement and praise he has redeveloped his vocabulary skills and now has eye contact of a typical child, said Karen. At the beginning of the program, they had us write down one thing we really wanted to have happen, recalled Karen. The one thing my husband wrote down is he wanted to have Benjamin say, Daddy, I love you. Now, he can do that and so much more. Were just blown away. Hes actually asking us to play with him now, which is huge in the world of autism, she continued. We still have a lot to work on but hes making huge, huge strides. The Bassetts are continuing to work with their son, who is now 3 years old, in the hopes to ready him for kindergarten next fall. Even though Benjamin has made remarkable progress, said Karen, she and her husband have decided to seek additional therapies for him rather than enrolling him in pre-school again. Theyre now pursuing taking Benjamin to the Autism Treatment Center in Massachusetts for a more intensive week-long program that will work one-on-one with him and his parents. A jamboree benefit will be held this Sunday, Oct. 5, at Cocktails on River Street in Morrisonville to help the Bassetts with their expenses for enrolling Benjamin in the program. The benefit will begin at 12 p.m. and include a spaghetti dinner that will cost $5 and be free to all children 5 years old and younger. Entertainment will be provided by Glass Onion, Misty Creek, Movin On, The Bootleg Band, and Save the Humans. The event will also include a 50/50 raffle, face painting, karaoke contest and Chinese auction, among other activities. Attendees will also have the chance to bid on artwork created by Benjamin himself during a silent art auction. We really want to just celebrate how Benjamin has come so far and know that the best is yet to come for him, said Karen. For more information about the benefit or how to help, contact the Bassetts at 293-1230, or visit their Web site, www.4benjamin.com.

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