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New Sherman Oaks center aims to help children with autism-related disorders

January 24, 2011 |  7:19 am

Seeking to provide much-needed services to young people with problems related to autism, a new center is slated to open Monday in Sherman Oaks.

"This center has been created to provide a lifeline of help, hope and opportunity to the ever-growing numbers of children affected by autism spectrum disorders," said Barbara Firestone, president and chief executive of The Help Group, a nonprofit that specializes in programs for children and young adults with autism-related disorders.

Children with autism-spectrum disorders exhibit symptoms such as problems with social interaction and communication, and repetitive behaviors. According to statistics provided by Firestone, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that autism affects one in every 110 American children -- one in every 70 boys, and one in every 315 girls.

California, like the rest of the nation, has experienced significant increases in the number of children affected by autism-spectrum disorders, Firestone said.

"We live in a time where the need for programs and services has never been greater, and it's so important to ensure that all children have the opportunity to fully realize their potential," Firestone said in a written statement.

The Sherman Oaks center at 13164 Burbank Blvd. includes a children's theater and a center for instruction and conferences. It is one of five campuses operated by The Help Group in the Los Angeles area.

The institutions provide assessment, early intervention, training in social skills, support groups and therapy, among other programs, Firestone said.

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-- Ann M. Simmons

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