Event turns children with autism into superheroes

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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) -- Every child has probably once dreamed of being a superhero, or at least meet one.

On Saturday, for children with autism living in mid-Michigan, it became a reality. That reality was put on by Centria Autism Services. Centria is a leading provider of home-based catastrophic injury and rehabilitation services, private duty nursing, supportive living services and Applied Behavior Analysis therapy for children with autism.

At Lansing's indoor sports arena for the Autism Activity Day, experts and parents talked about how the event could be a huge confidence booster.

Jordan Valasek was dressed as Iron Man, but on a normal day, he works in the accounting department at Centria. He said he enjoys giving back to events like today and has a blast role-playing with the kids.

"Iron Man doesn't have any superpowers, but he was smart enough to build the suit that made him a superhero, and we're building these kids up to be superheroes in themselves," Valasek said.

Nathan Rabens is another Centria employee, and on Saturday he turned into Batman. Rabens said he tries to sign up for as many volunteer events as he can, as an opportunity to give back to those children and families he services.

"Seeing the smile on the kiddos faces makes it all worthwhile in the end. It's amazing, its the most rewarding job I've ever had" said Rabens.

Rabens said his job is rewarding, and parents said they appreciate Centria employees' in return. For example, when kids of all ages can come together wear a cap, put on a superhero mask and build social skills with other children.

Parents said they enjoy the network part of it as well, giving them an opportunity to speak with other parents and therapist about autism. Carmen Holloway is a parent whose son has autism, and she is also a behavioral therapist. She can stress enough on the importance of early intervention and therapy for children with autism.

"Getting involved when they're early, early intervention can be very helpful," she said.

Holloway said there is a huge benefit in having kids meet and interact with superheroes. She said building up these kids is extremely important because they can be gifted in different ways, and in turn possessing their own superpowers.

"With the superhero, it can be a positive message that you can be special and different but you can still bring something positive," said Holloway.

Holloway advises parents to not hold back on getting a professional opinion if they feel their child might be on the spectrum.

"Sometimes it can be that temptation for ones to be in denial when you see differences, and don't be afraid to check up," said Holloway.

Anne Kylman is a parent who wasn't afraid to speak up when she noticed those differences in her child. She said she's happy she did get help early on. Since her 2-year-old son started therapy this past April, she said she has seen a huge improvement.

"We wouldn't have been able to do this six months ago, there would've been tantrums, we would've stayed maybe 10 minutes. But he's having a blast, and we're pretty proud," said Kylam.

Read the original version of this article at wilx.com.