Maitland therapy center helps build bridges between children with autism, first responders

Children on autism spectrum get to meet first responders, touch firetrucks

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – This week, in honor of Autism Acceptance Month, many kids got quite the surprise at a therapy center aimed at providing services and treatment for children diagnosed with autism.

Wednesday, several children and their families came out to the Hopebridge Autism Therapy Center along Forest City Road for its annual First Responder Day.

Kids got a chance to touch firetrucks up close, get a look inside emergency vehicles and also talk to first responders.

“(It’s) not just for the kids, but for the first responders as well, then that way when they encounter someone on the spectrum in a real-life environment, they can feel more comfortable,” said Michelle Brown, a center manager at Hopebridge.

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Brown said Hopebridge has therapy centers nationwide, including five locations across Central Florida aimed at providing up-to-date services and treatment for children and their families.

“We’re really working on getting that individual treatment for each kid so each kid can grow to be their best selves,” Brown said.

Many kids even dressed up as first responders for First Responder Day.

Stacie Carbone’s 4-year-old grandson, Carter, attends Hopebridge.

“He loves truck, he loves firetrucks especially, he loves dogs,” Carbone said. “He was diagnosed probably about eight months ago with autism.”

Carbone said she’s grateful for Hopebridge’s services.

“Even with him it was a struggle to play with other children, just on a playground with other children. They’re teaching him that here,” Carbone said.

Felix Clavelo said the services offered through Hopebridge have been vital for his 3-year-old daughter, Marley.

“A big game changer as far as the ABA therapy and their approach to doing this, because they’re teaching us to learn how to be better parents for Marley,” Clavelo said. “We feel that we have a nice community of people that help us out and advocate for these kids.”

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About the Author:

Jerry Askin is an Atlanta native who came to News 6 in March 2018 with an extensive background in breaking news.