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Local 'fashionistas' help raise needed funds

MIDDLEBURY - Last fall, two Middlebury College sophomores, Ariele Faber and DaVia Walker, organized a fashion show to raise money for autism awareness and to support the Intensive School Supports program for children with autism in Addison County.

The show-"Expression Beyond Words: Raising Autism Awareness in Style"-was held in the McCullough Social Space on the college campus. More than 300 people attended the show, which involved more than 60 Middlebury College students, including 30 who made multiple trips down the runway modeling an array of women's and men's fashions.

Many of the fashions were provided by area retailers, but other clothing was designed and sewn by students. Categories included casual wear, sports attire, school fashions, as well as semi-formal and formal dress. The student designs focused on the three primary colors of red, blue, and yellow, which are also the colors used in the universal autism logo.

In advertising the show, the organizers stressed that the event captured the audience's visual sense, enhanced their intellect, and inspired charity. While autism is a developmental disability that challenges verbal communication, the voices that echo out of different art forms are far from silenced. One in 160 newborns will be affected this year alone.

The Intensive School Supports (ISS) program is provided by the Counseling Service of Addison County in cooperation with two school supervisory unions in the county. ISS is a program of the agency's division of Youth and Family Services. The program provides intensive supports for children on the autism spectrum and others with emotional-behavioral challenges to allow them to participate in mainstream school programs.

Last week, Ariele and DaVia presented a check for $438 to the ISS Team. The gift will be used to purchase resources to enrich the autism treatment program, much of which involves clinicians working one on one with youngsters at their schools.

In thanking the two student organizers for the gift, CSAC's Youth and Family Services Director Cheryl Huntley said that autism spectrum disorders are affecting more and more children, and that early diagnosis and treatment can greatly improve their skills and success in school.

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