“Toto Teens in Transition” helps those with autism


autism poster

March 29, 2016

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Slippery Rock University's April Autism Awareness Month program will include three "Toto Teens in Transition" peer-mentoring outings partnering Grove City and Slippery Rock high school students with young people on the autism spectrum for bowling, gym and equestrian activities.

The Toto Teens Transition programs will be offered from 2-4 p.m., April 2, in East Gym, 2-4 p.m., April 9, at SRU's Storm Harbor Equestrian Center and from 2-4 p.m., April 16, in Coffaro's Pizza, for bowling. SRU's recreational therapy program students will supervise the activities.

"Toto Teens in Transition," launched in 2013, is part of Parents in Toto, a national organization established to support families who have children on the autism spectrum. The program provides a comfortable environment for youth with autism spectrum disorder to enjoy time with peer buddies in natural social settings.

Betsy Kemeny, SRU assistant professor of recreational therapy, said the interaction helps young people on the spectrum because they emulate mentors' communication.

"The idea behind it is to build social skills," she said. "For the peer mentors, they are modeling social behavior."

Meg Frisco, a recreational therapy major from Oxford and president of the Recreational Therapy Club at SRU, has helped organized Toto Teens in Transition for three years.

"Everyone looks forward to this unique opportunity to raise awareness for autism," she said. "I like the idea that we partner with special education on the project."

SRU's Autism Awareness Month will include a "Light It Up Blue" program from 6:15-7 p.m., April 7, at the Storm Harbor Equestrian Center and an April 23 TRAILS 5K run 3K walk, sponsored by the Recreational Therapy Club and Autism Speaks U at SRU.

Sydney Larner, a special education major from South Park and president of Autism Speaks U, said she hopes many people participate in the TRAILS 5K. The event will raise support for the TRAILS program and Autism Speaks U. Both programs advocate for those with autism spectrum disorder.

"Supporting those with autism is such a great cause, and it hits home to me, as my younger sister is on the spectrum," Larner said. "She is somebody who gives me life, is a true role model, and makes me want to support and hopefully be able to teach those with the disorder in the years to come. The purpose of Autism Awareness Month is to get more people aware of the disorder and to spread awareness of course, while having them gain a perspective on the statistics and facts that surround the disorder as well. Autism Speaks U is an organization that I love, and I hope many others will join in the support for those with autism."

MEDIA CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine | 724.738.4854 | gordon.ovenshine@sru.edu