Hospital Employees, Families Unite to Celebrate Autism Acceptance Day

LEADERS FROM Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital and Stramski Developmental Center, along with Long Beach Fire Department firefighters, volunteers from the Steel Magnolias, patients, community members, hospital staff and Miller’s Children’s & Women’s beloved mascot, Millie the Dolphin, holding up 36 blue puzzle pieces and one white puzzle piece representing the 1 in 36 autism statistic of children being diagnosed in the United States.

In a remarkable display of unity, community members, patients, staff and families from the Stramski Children’s Developmental Center at MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach came together to celebrate Autism Acceptance Day showcasing the importance of support and understanding for neurodivergent individuals on the autism spectrum. Autism Acceptance Day on April 2 marks the beginning of a month-long celebration and advocacy for understanding, compassion and acceptance.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disability characterized by a diverse array of challenges that can significantly impact an individual’s daily functioning through communication, social interaction, and behavior. Autism manifests uniquely in each person, leading to a spectrum of symptoms and experiences.  

“At the age of 3, the pre-school my son Zac attended started to notice he was not hitting important developmental milestones. I was later referred to the Stramski Center who diagnosed Zac with autism spectrum disorder. Through the uncertainty of his diagnosis, the team at the Stramski Center provided support and guidance,” says Andi Matsumoto, mother of 9-year-old Zac.

“Seeing our children being celebrated for exactly who they are on days like today, in an environment overflowing with understanding and support, is truly heartwarming. The world needs all kinds of minds, our children’s differences aren’t just to be accepted, they are to be embraced and cherished.”

Patients, care teams, community members, and firefighters from the Long Beach Fire Department gathered in a captivating display of awareness. Each person held a blue puzzle piece, while one patient, Zac Matsumoto, and his mom, Andi Matsumoto, held a white puzzle piece representing the 1 in 36 statistic of children identified on the autism spectrum in the United States. 

“Today, 1 in 36 children are diagnosed with autism, in a world that promotes conformity, today we are reminded of the beauty of diversity, embracing the differences that makes each child unique,“ says Gary Feldman, medical director, Stramski Children’s Developmental Center. “Acceptance isn’t just about tolerance; it’s about love, compassion, and celebrating the extraordinary gifts and talents each individual brings to the world.”

Patients and families enjoyed a range of sensory-friendly activities, including slime and bubbles, and had the chance to interact with Miller Children’s & Women’s beloved mascot, Millie the Dolphin. Additionally, guests had the opportunity to tour two fire trucks provided by the Long Beach Fire Department.

The Stramski Center at Miller Children’s & Women’s is a comprehensive center that cares for children — from birth to age 21 — with behavioral and developmental conditions, such as autism, Fragile X, ADHD/ADD, Down Syndrome, and other learning disabilities. For nearly 50 years, the Stramski Center has continued to provide care for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder by evaluating them for diagnosis and making referrals to specialty centers for additional treatment as needed.

“Today is an important day for all children’s hospitals, pediatric supportive organizations, and friends and family affected by autism to stand together to bring awareness and understanding to the neurodivergent community,” says Yair Katz, chief executive, Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach. “It is part of our mission.” 

Submitted by MemorialCare


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