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Trinity support group welcomes autism specialist


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TRINITY — A support group for people in the community who have been impacted by family and loved ones with Autism and other neurological disorders welcomed a nationally-recognized expert to their monthly meeting last week.

The Sept. 11 meeting of the group Helping HANDS, featured David Berger, a pediatrician at Wholistic Pediatrics and Family Care in Tampa. He also specializes in biomedical therapies as well as treatment for attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, autism and other related disorders.

Helping HANDS — the acronym stands for Hope for Autism and Neurological Disorders — is a community support group for parents, family members, and friends impacted by autism and related neurological disorders such as Tourette’s syndrome, sensory processing disorder, ADHD, Asperger’s syndrome or other autism spectrum disorders. The group meets monthly at the Medical Center of Trinity to offer support and meet with various speakers.

Jonica Chittum, the founder of the group, said, “I’m not going to give up on autism awareness, until there’s autism acceptance.”

Chittum is the mother of 9-year-old son Mac, who has autism. She started the group because she felt there was a need for support and more information in the community with families with children who have special needs. The group began last May and has been meeting monthly ever since.

One of the most interesting parts of the group is the fact that adults with autism, Asperger’s and similar disorders, take part in the discussion. Chittum said that one of the most amazing experiences is when a member with Asperger’s, who has been coming for a year, talked for the first time in a meeting.

When members would ask questions, she would give her opinion. Eventually, people were asking her questions directly.

“She has this amazing insight into what our kids are thinking,” Chittum said. “If I could get anything in the world, it wouldn’t be a million dollars. I wouldn’t want to be the richest person or anything. It would be to be able to be in my kid’s brain for a couple of days.”

Chittum said the biggest benefit of the group is “being able to know that there are other people out there who have the same diagnosis.”

“And even if they don’t have the same diagnosis, we are all going through the same thing. There is so much information out there, it’s overwhelming,” she added.

More than 30 people attended the Helping HANDS meeting to hear what Berger had to say. His presentation focused on treatment and prevention of Autism and long-term chronic issues. He talked about a wide range of topics, from vaccinations and personalized medicine to the importance of vitamin D and the benefits from Epsom salt baths.

During the question portion of the meeting, members were able to ask Berger questions on subjects such as ADHD medications, breast feeding and pregnancy procedures.

One member of the group, Robyn Giglio, found that the shared information and resources between members have been one of the most beneficial parts of the group.

“Everybody shares their resources,” Giglio said. “We’ve had great presenters.”

Helping HANDs meets monthly at 7 p.m. on the second Wednesday of each month. The group meets at Medical Center of Trinity, 9330 State Road 54, Trinity, in the main building, off the lobby in Conference Room B.

For more information contact Chittum via email at jonica.chittum@HCAHealthcare.com or by telephone at (813) 402-9442.

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