MILFORD - A candlelight vigil for autism awareness is planned Friday, April 25 at 7 p.m., at St. Patrick's Parish Hall, 111 East High St., Milford. The annual event is hosted by Pike Autism Support Services.
   Pike County Commissioners issued a proclamation naming April as Autism Awareness Month. Jeanne Marie Passaro, the founder of  Pike Autism Support Services, discussed their activities at the Commissioners' meeting April 2nd. She wore a new t-shirt marking the 2014 observance. This year's shirt was designed by Delaware Valley Senior Linda Aragon.
    The shirt depicts the phrase, "Different, Not Less: Autism Acceptance."
    A mother of a son with autism who is now 22, Passaro said that the non-profit support group is 19 years old. The need for support services has become only more urgent in that time, with the increased statistics of autism diagnosis. She said that when the group started, one in 10,000 children were diagnosed nationally in the autistic spectrum. Now it is one on only 68, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). She attributed this increase to both better diagnoses and an increasingly "toxic world" with more environmental triggers.
   This was a 29 percent increase from 2008, according to the CDC.
   The proclamation states that autism's prevalence rate now places it as the third most common developmental disability in the nation today, and autism can result in difficulties in communication, socialization, sensory perception and behavior.
   Autism can range from mild to severe and knows no racial, ethnic or social boundaries.
    The Commissioners made mention of organizations in the area providing special services, emotional support and community awareness of autism. Along with Pike Autism Support Services, the proclamation lists the Center for Developmental Disabilities, Delaware Valley School District, Pike County Developmental Center and Community Vocational Services and the Human Resources Center, Inc. Businesses in Pike County that hire individuals with autism were acknowledged, especially Belle Reve, United Methodist Church and Wal-Mart.
    Passaro said that Pike Autism Support Services does fund-raising, provides workshops for parents and professionals, conducts a support group and hosts bus trips for families with autistic members.
    Their I-Care campaign, she added provides I-Pads and I-Pods for autistic persons. These devices have been found to be very helpful in encouraging a non-verbal individual to communicate. So far they have given away 18 devices.
   A program at Christmas with Santa, a breakfast and gifts has been very popular for families with autistic children.
   Pike Autism Support Services also provides financial aid for parents to be ale to attend regional conferences and workshops on autism.
   She also mentioned a couple of the good programs offered in the community for children with disabilities. Dingman Delaware Little League offers a Challenger Division for boys and girls. G.A.I.T., a nonprofit organization located near Milford, provides  therapeutic horse riding.
   Leading up the candlelight vigil, blue ribbons have been ties to trees in Milford for the month of April, marking Autism Awareness Month, she said. The public is welcome at the vigil.
   For more information about  Pike Autism Support Services of Northeastern Pennsylvania, visit online at, e-mail or write to them at P.O. Box 906, Milford, PA 18337.
   Support meetings are listed on the web site as being held on the third Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m. at the Biondo Community Room, 221 Broad St., Milford.