Dunmorean of the Month: Lauren Mrykalo

Dunmorean of the Month - Lauren MyrkaloBy Steve Svetovich

When Lauren Mrykalo, Dunmore, set out at Bloomsburg University to become a teacher, she didn’t know she would someday soon be instructing autistic students.

She just happened to get involved with elementary school autistic children and now has no intention of ever leaving the field.

Daughter of Richard and Marisa Scott, Dunmore, Lauren is married to Chris Mrykalo. She is a 2008 graduate of Dunmore High School and received a B.S. in elementary education/special education from Bloomsburg University in 2012.

Lauren, 29, started her career as a substitute teacher for a year and a half before she evolved into an autistic support teacher. Certified as a K-12 teacher, she currently is an autistic support teacher at Moscow Elementary School.

“I taught learning and emotional support before,” she said. “I had never taught autistic students before this. I went to a few conferences, but that was it.

“Once I got into this as an autistic support teacher, I never looked back. This is what I want to do for the rest of my teaching career. This is where I want to be.”

Lauren, who played basketball, soccer and ran track at Dunmore High School, spoke glowingly of her job.

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Photo Credit: North Pocono School District

“I work with kids in the autistic spectrum. Every child is different. Each little problem is different, but they all have so much potential. I tell each child he or she can do so much more. 

Each child really has a chance to be somebody special just like anyone else. These children have so many extraordinary talents.

 

“I have six autistic students, with five in my classes all day. I have my own classroom accommodations for the students. The classroom accommodations are very important to the success of each student.

“I enjoy doing this so much. I hope to do it until I retire. It’s my fifth year working with autistic children. I plan on making it my career.”

Lauren, who enjoys running, basketball and playing guitar in her spare time, would like to improve her teaching skills for autistic children by attending graduate school in the near future.

“I want to get a master’s degree with a specialty in applied behavior analysis. There is a lot of evidence that this type of therapy will benefit the autistic student in many ways.

“This is not an easy job, but it is very fulfilling. You have to go into it knowing this. Every day is different. Every child is different. Every child has great potential.

“It’s a very satisfying career. Each child is very special.”

Dunmore Couple Volunteers for Autism

duncansBy Steve Svetovich

The 13th annual Autism Awareness a Night was held this past April 28 at the 20th Ward Banquet Hall, Scranton, And once again Dunmore’s Gary and Lynne Duncan were there to volunteer their time.

Gary Duncan is head of Dunmore’s Neighborhood Crime Watch program and is an occupational therapist for Traditional Home Health, Dunmore. His wife Lynne is a speech therapist for Allied Services, Scranton, and has years of experience working with the autistic population and special needs children.

“This event is always for a good cause,” she said. “We are very happy to be here.”

Gary’s involvement was quite evident as he took the time to walk around, shake hands and talk to those attending the yearly event.

The Dunmore couple volunteer yearly at the event and cherish their time there.

The Duncan couple’s high regard for the Autism Awareness Night is evident in their demeanor while greeting those in attendance.

“I don’t even have to think twice about coming here,” Gary Duncan said. “It’s a no brainer.”

The annual event is sponsored by the Minooka Lions Club. Several hundred attended.

A variety of delicious hot food, water, soda, coffee, pastries and deserts all buffet style were served to those who attended.

Al Dorunda, Jr., is chairman of the Board of Directors for the Minooka Lions Autism Awareness Foundation. Joe Castaldi is treasurer. Rita Castaldi is vice chairman.

Autism and autism spectrum disorder are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development.

These disorders are characterized in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.

They include autistic disorder, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified and Asperger syndrome.

Asperger syndrome can be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention and physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances. Some persons with Aspergers excel in visual skills, music, math and art. Some are at a genius level in these areas.

Autism has its roots in early brain development. However, the most obvious signs of autism and symptoms tend to emerge between 12 and 18 months of age.

Some infants and toddlers begin to develop normally until the second year of life, when they lose skills and develop or are diagnosed with autism. It is a pattern called regression.

Autism Speaks funds research on effective methods for earlier diagnosis, as early intervention with proven behavioral therapies can improve outcomes.

Increasing autism awareness is a key aspect of this work and one in which families and volunteers play a valuable role.

Autism now affects one in 68 children and one in 42 boys.

Autism is the fastest growing serious developmental disability in the country.

There is no medical detection or cure for autism.

Parents Loving Children Through Autism Foundation is located at 1243 Wyoming Ave., third floor, Scranton. The contact number is 570-341-3388.

Autism costs a family an average of $60,000 per year and receives less than five percent of the research funding of many less prevalent childhood diseases.

There needs to be more people like Dunmore’s Gary and Lynne Duncan to help.

Autism prevalence figures continue to grow.

And the children diagnosed with autism later become adults with autism. The adults need advocates too.

Funding is just one of the many concerns.

There needs to be more help.

That’s a no brainer.

 

Letter to the Editor: Autism Awareness

julia

To the editor:

As I’m sure you’ve heard, the most recent character on Sesame Street, Julia, has a disability—more specifically, she has autism. This giant breakthrough for Sesame Street will hopefully serve as an example for future television and will further the show’s mission to make all children feel loved and included.

But as children watch this brand new character, they may have questions as to why she is a bit different than her friends. Why does it take her a little longer to respond to a question? Why does she sometime talk a little slower?

The topic of talking to children about developing an understanding of, and having compassion for, children and adults with disabilities is extremely important, and experts at Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health encourage parents to take advantage of this heightened awareness to initiate these conversations with their children.

Below are 6 tips to help parents kick off these conversations:

  1. Autism_awareness_ribbon_fiEducate yourself first
  2. Use casual opportunities to start conversations
  3. Provide accurate but digestible information
  4. Reassure your child
  5. Remind your child about treating others with respect
  6. Take it slow

 

Thank you!

Amy Kelly
Director of Family & Community Services
Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health