Warriors Celebrate Autism Acceptance | News, Sports, Jobs

CANFIELD — Eight-year-old Ryland Koch is academically advanced, and he also knows how to progress quickly down a track — to the point of winning a first-place medal.

“He didn’t communicate very well until he was in his last 3 years. He was very socially distant and his sensory issues were quite astronomical,” Ryland’s mother, Brittney Koch, spoke about her son, who is on the autism spectrum and had a variety of sensory processing issues.

The boy’s latest challenge, however, was to finish first in a 400m Kids Fun Run, which was part of the events that made up the third annual Mahoning Valley Warrior competition on Saturday at the Canfield Fairgrounds.

The host of the fundraiser was the Canfield-based Autism Society of the Mahoning Valley.

Ryland was hypersensitive primarily to certain sounds, smells and having others in his personal space — something that often led to acting out behaviors, his mother said. Brittney added that her son hopes to become an ocean archaeologist.

Ryland listed playing video games and watching Harry Potter films as his favorite activities; his main sports are wrestling, track and field, football, baseball and martial arts, said Ryland, who was also accompanied to the Warriors competition by his father, Chuck Koch, and sister, Reghan, 12.

The underlying purpose of fundraising was to celebrate and foster greater acceptance for people on the spectrum and their families. The goal was to raise at least $25,000 for ASMV programs and resources to help others “navigating the world of autism”, Robin Suzelis, the organization’s director, noted.

ASMV also hosts monthly social events that include bowling and movie outings with the goal of getting people on the spectrum to get to know each other and foster friendships, she explained.

The warrior competition largely consisted of a 5k race, two strongman events and a tractor pulling challenge. The 2022 male and female winners were Austin Dodrill of Warren and Brooke Ghilani of Alliance.

Among those who put their upper body muscles to the test were Hannah Mowery, a teacher and early intervention specialist who has worked with people on the spectrum, and Steven Hokky of Watertown, NY, a US Army doctor who attempted to lift a 205-pound barbell.

“They are resilient and can overcome a lot,” Mowery, from Canfield, said, referring to people on the autism spectrum. “They are capable of anything.”

For his part, Mowery lifted 115 pounds of weight above his head.

Boardman’s John Crogan, who tested his physical metal by competing in the tractor pull event, did things a bit more horizontally than vertically. His secret? Just keep moving forward and don’t look back.

“I just kept the momentum flowing,” said Crogan, who also wanted to support ASMV.

Additionally, several local agencies have shown their support, including Help Network of Northeast Ohio, the Rich Center for Autism, Proactive Behavior Services, Valley Christian School, the Early Childhood Resource Center, and The Workshops Inc., which just opened in Mineral Ridge and offers vocational training as well as adult day service programs.

Ryan Pastore, president and co-owner of Boardman-based ABA Therapy Solutions, also offered an array of information.

ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) is designed largely to help people on the spectrum increase their communication skills and desired behaviors while decreasing unwanted behaviors, as well as to “helping kids live their best life, no matter what that means to them,” Pastore explained.

ABA Therapy Solutions, which also offers a day program, uses research-based and evidence-based practices to help children, especially ages 2 to 14, with their communication, sensory and social skills, he said. declared.

Also in attendance was Christopher Banks, president and CEO of the Autism Society of America, based in Rockville, Maryland.

“I came to support the wonderful work that the Autism Society of the Mahoning Valley is doing in the valley for the autism community,” he said, adding that the Warriors contest was also a time to celebrate the work of the agency and the support of the community.

Banks noted that the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that about one in 44 births in the United States results in an autism diagnosis. To put that number into perspective, if 110,000 fans attended an Ohio State Buckeyes football game, about 2,500 of them would be on the spectrum, he continued.

For more information about the Autism Society of the Mahoning Valley, go to www.autismmv.org. or call 330-333-9609.

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