Putting Rockaway On the Map for Autism Awareness


The Dance Out Under the Stars for Autism Awareness, hosted by Rockaway Beach Autism Families (RBAF) on Thursday, July 12, was such a fun time for everyone. It was great seeing individuals on the spectrum showing off their dance moves and engaging with others. Even my daughter got fired up, pulling people to sway rhythmically to the fabulous music spun by Deejay Byg Fury. It was the first time I saw her being so engaging and well, previously unbeknownst to me — my daughter could dance! The euphoric smiles radiating from the crowd were so beautiful. Even folks who just happened to be there, got in on the fun, embracing what our goals were for the event — building autism awareness on the peninsula and having a blast doing so!

I want to thank Caracas owner, Maribel Araujo and manager, Guido Alizo, for graciously giving us use of their space; Deejay Byg Fury who volunteered to make this an electric time with fabulous music; Gelen Rios of event planning company, Arma Tu Party, who after contacting her at the 11th hour, delivered even more memorable moments with a photo booth that everyone loved. Also, thank you to the Rockaway Beach Autism Families’ members, who came out in full force with their loved ones to dance it up. The genesis for the idea of the Dance Out was at a family group meeting at Jane Garfield Frank’s house earlier in the spring, and Jane, thank you for coming up with a fantastic idea, and I’m looking forward to rockin’ out with you and the community at our Rock Out for Autism event hosted with Jammin’ Jon at Caracas this Sunday, July 29. Countless others I want to thank, including Florence Ferguson of Friends of the Beach 59th Street Playground Association, who always comes out in zealous support. Also, RBAF members, Christine Dydzuhn; Katherine Schepper Ryan; Rojo Rafiringa; my daughter’s dad, Rado Rafiringa; the Wades, Woolf and Roberts families — gosh — too many to list! Forgive me if I omitted someone. And of course, my family, who always supports me in my advocacy, and my crown jewel and motivation to keep pushing, my daughter, Soanirina Rafiringa.

After the event, I started reflecting on how I started this family group just to connect with other parents about the daily struggles and joys of autism. Then as more ideas came along, my aim became not only to connect, but to put Rockaway on the map as a forward-thinking community for autism awareness and opportunities for our loved ones on the spectrum.

Local business owners — please join Rockaway Beach Autism Families in working towards putting our peninsula and Broad Channel on the map for creating active and fulfilling employment for individuals on the spectrum. The spectrum of autism is wide, and you would be both surprised and pleased to learn the skills that our loved ones have to offer. Not only would it be good for business, but also socially and ethically beneficial in showing that our local business community is willing and able to give our ASD populace a thriving chance in being productive and employable. As quoted in a CNN article, “The Reality of Finding a Job with Autism,” (cnn.com/2013/04/30/health/irpt-autism-in-the-workplace/index.html), Ann Cameron Williams, chief research and innovations officer with The Arc, a national organization of and for people with intellectual and related developmental disabilities, said, “When you have a company that is willing to hire someone with a disability, it's a positive reflection on that company.” She also stated that companies are starting to see not only the business benefits of hiring someone on the spectrum, but also the ethical and public relations benefits. So, let’s do it! I know it’s not going to happen overnight, but if we work together, the possibilities are endless!

This Sunday, July 29 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., join RBAF and Jammin’ Jon in our Rock Out for Autism Awareness summer concert at Caracas, Beach 106th Concession. We have quite the eclectic entertainment lineup: Malagasy (from Madagascar) band, NY VALIHA, Kyle Wade, RCK97 with Ras Atiba, Jammin’ Jon and the Danny Berke Trio. Plus with face-painting, raffle prizes and giveaways, this will be a fun event for everyone!

For more information about upcoming events and group meetings, checkout Rockaway Beach Autism Families on Facebook or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.