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Help kids and adults deal with autism

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

You can help support kids with autism and other disabilities. Dine in or take out from Uno’s on Route 3 West in Clifton between 11 a.m. Thursday and 2 a.m. Friday, and 15% goes to the groups Putting the Pieces Together and Special Angels.

Co-founders Deborah Wertalik & Tara Biezewski Banuls

PTPT is “more than a support group,” said co-founder Tara Biezewski Banuls. “It is a family made up of parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers and friends of children on the spectrum. [We] comfort you, cheer you on, socialize with and celebrate your children’s accomplishments.”

The organization serves those in need, ages 18 months to 21 years. None are turned away, no matter what county they’re from, the organizers said.

PTPT also stages parades, carnivals, motorcycle runs and banquets, among other events. Once a month, the organization gets a local movie theater to itself for the families to enjoy new releases — with popcorn and soda. Some parents admit it’s the first time they’ve been to the movies since the diagnoses, the founders said.

Because the non-profit group isn’t affiliated with a town or school, it relies solely on donations and grants.

WHEN :       Thursday, 11 a.m. – Friday, 2 a.m.
WHERE :    Uno Chicago Grill, Route 3W
PHONE :    201.966.8738 or 201.966.8738 (both 24/7)

BE SURE :  Go to and print the flyer (the group’s coupon to get its credit). Or click here: THE COUPON

Putting the Pieces Together meets every Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the La Salle Center, 200 Ridge Road in North Arlington “to support, educate and share,” Banuls said. “We have speaker meetings, holiday celebrations, group trips, appropriate leagues for our children and more.”

Banuls and Deborah Wertalik established PTPT five years ago with a simple creed: “Education is our best weapon.”

Their vision is of a world in which children with different abilities are seen as individuals who function and contribute as much to society as anyone else. That includes children with mental, physical, academic, and emotional issues being able to learn next to and play with their typical peers, according to the organization’s Web site.

The group has helped educate hundreds of families on a variety of topics, providing free speaker meetings and workshops.

As an offshoot, the women launched Special Angels Recreation , a collection of age-appropriate tee ball, basketball, bowling and soccer leagues.

“We are advocates for autism in local and State government and make sure the districts understand the need for better education and therapy. We have created autism awareness so communities and lawmakers can see what our children are capable of,” Banuls said.

“We have a Forum on our website which is available to anyone so they can share education or just talk to another person that has walked a mile in their shoes.”

As she put it: “We are the ‘baby boomers’ of autism and can’t afford to be penny-wise and dollar-foolish with our children’s future.

“Being a parent of a special needs child is not the end of the world — it’s just the beginning of a new journey,” Banuls said.

Among the group’s goals :

* Working with federal lawmakers to create or amend laws protecting children with disabilities;
* Getting cameras on school buses;
* Providing therapy and education for children with disabilities;
* Raising funds for research, as well as a park for children with special needs and an affordable occupational therapy room;
* Offering arts and music programs for children;
* Financing an organization field and recreation facility;
* Financing safe group homes for children without caregivers;
* Providing more education in disabilities for parents, teachers, and other direct service providers, as well as more awareness events for the community.

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