ATPF Sweet 16 Gala

Saturday, April 18, 2020


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Progress to Date

Funds Raised 2020: $7,526

0% of ATPF 2020 Operating Budget

Children Screened: 20,046

SLP Students Trained at SJSU: 2,300

Dayna & Garret Hoff in the San Diego Union Tribune

Written by BRADLEY J. FIKES on Thursday, May 30, 2019.

Autism never affects just one pereson. It changes the lives of entire households. How well they can cope depends on the condition's severity and the support available to each family. The public, too, plays a role.

Here are the stories of two affected families:

Garret Hoff has no problem keeping busy. When he's not at Francis Parker School in San Diego, the 14-year-old is often preparing for a play with San Diego Junior Theatre. On Wednesday, the Point Loma resident went off to England for two weeks with his class. And when he gets back, Garret plans to start interning for state Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine.

Not too bad for any teen, let alone one with autism.

"Autism hasn't really stopped me." Garret said during a recent interview at the Autism Tree Project Foundation. The nonprofit group was co-founded in 2003 by his parents Danya and Todd Hoff, after his diagnosis.

"I've done San Diego Junior Theatre for three years." Garret said. "I'm planning to gear up for another show. I've worked with the foundation since I was 7." 

The foundation offers autism screenings for preschoolers, so that children with the disorder can recive help early in their lives. The group's services are free.

The Hoff's got Garret diagnosed early as well. They had turned to Dr. Doris Trauner, a neurologist at UC San Diego. Danya Hoff knew Trauner from her job as a pharmaceutical sales representitive. 

"(Garret) was using the corner of his eyes (to see), so he was always running into things. So we had him to every eye specialist. We were looking at so many different things," Danya Hoff said. "Finally, Doris speant a couple of hours with Garret watching him play, and diagnosed him."

Danya Hoff quit her pharmaceutical job and helped her establish the Autism Tree Project. With Trauner's advice, she not only learned about autism, but how to help other parents who have children with autism. To learn more about the foundation, visit autismtreeproject.org or call (619 )222-4465.

Steven Frischling of New London, Conn., is raising Simon, his 7-year-old son with autism. The boy's emotions can turn violent in an instant, especially if he's thwarted. He's got a great throwing arm, which he may exercise nonstop for hours if he's angry.

"He is a delightful kid; he loves to give hugs, he loves to give kisses," Frischling said. "On the other hand, he often has no idea what he's saying."

Simon is also a fanatic about cooking, both as a viewer of TV shows on the subject and in the kitchen, preparing meals with the upmost concentration.

Frischling said warning signs appeared in Simon's behavior before he was 3.But there was no specific diagnosis at first. "The best answer they could possibly give us was, some things were off," Frischling said. "And I've got two other kids to gauge by this."

Today, he still struggles to find words for that expreince. "It's hard to explain to somebody until they've actually seen it to inderstand what;'s unusual about it," Frischling said. "One of our neighbors summed it up best: He looks completely normal, until he isn't." 

Simon also shows a signs of Tourette syndrome and obsessive compulsive disorder, but his health care providers haven't made diagnoses. The town's autism program is well--funded, Frischling said, and that may be an issue.

"They're hesitant to change his diagnosis because it may affect the service he gets," Frischling said, adding that autism services are relatively well-funded by government and private groups.

Dealing with autism is hard enough. Frischling said it's even harder to take the reactions of strangers who lecture him on how to handle Simon when the child is having a meltdown in public. Hardest for Frischling, though, is when his son gets bullied.

"I have seen people who are 13, 14 push Simon," Frischling said. "I have seen people make comments about Simon, adults, and I watched his brother walk up, get in their face and educate them on who his brother is. I can;t do that, but if a 9-year-old does, it gets their attention." For all the awareness about autism in the media, Frischling said, there doesn't seem to be enough awareness and sensitivity amongst the public.