International autism expert to address parents

Author and advocate for children and families affected by autism, Chantal Sicile-Kira, will discuss the impact autism is having on America from 4 to 7 p.m. April 26 at Poseidon Restaurant, 1670 Coast Blvd., Del Mar.

The event is free.

Sicile-Kira, a resident of Carmel Valley, will also sign copies of her new book, “41 Things to Know About Autism,” with a portion of the proceeds from the launch benefiting the Autism Research Institute and Talk About Curing Autism Now.

According to Sicile-Kira, one in 100 children is currently affected by autism, and the average lifetime cost of caring for a child with autism ranges from $3.5 million to $5 million. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called autism “a national public health crisis whose cause and cure remain unknown.”

In her lectures, Sicile-Kira offers practical and inspirational advice on raising children and teens with autism. Her first experience with the disorder was at a state hospital, preparing youths with developmental disabilities for deinstitutionalization. Currently, her task is transitioning both her teenagers (one is severely impacted by autism) out of high school and into adulthood.

“My son who is impacted by autism is 21, Rebecca is 17,” she said. “He will be graduating from Torrey Pines this June on the same day my daughter will be graduating from Canyon Crest Academy.”

She speaks internationally, moderates webinars, blogs on the Huffington Post, and writes a column for Spectrum Magazine.

Her family was highlighted by a Newsweek cover story, “Growing Up with Autism,” and featured in the MTV documentary “I Have Autism,” which was the recipient of a 2008 Voice Award.

Sicile-Kira is affiliated with the Autism Society of America, Autism One, the National Autism Association and Autism Speaks. She is also a co-chair for the South Counties Autism Regional Taskforce of the California Senate Select Committee on Autism & Related Disorders.

Sicile-Kira received her B.A. in social ecology from UC Irvine.

When asked what a parent should do if he or she suspects a child may be autistic, Sicile-Kira had this advice.

“Follow your instincts,” she said. “Don’t listen to a doctor who says ‘Wait and see.’ Early intervention is key if the child does indeed have autism. Check out the First Signs Web page on Monitoring Development,

dev/healthydev.htm, and read up on typical developmental milestones.

“Finally, find a doctor knowledgeable about autism through your local chapter of the Autism Society of America. Hopefully, there is nothing wrong with your child, but better safe than sorry!”

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