When Kevin Kojimi was a baby and breastfeeding, he never looked into his mother’s eyes.
“Even as a new mom, I knew something was wrong,” said Pleasanton’s Julie Kojimi. “When I lowered him into the bathtub, his back would arch so much his toes would almost touch his head in fear.”
Though several healthcare professionals reassured Kojimi and her husband that their boy was healthy, doubts lingered.
When her son turned two, Kojimi asked the guests to whisper the Happy Birthday song to Kevin, but even the whispers were too loud for him.
“Every instinct in my body said something wasn’t right,” Kojimi said.
Then, soon after turning two, Kevin was diagnosed with autism.
Kojimi went into “research mode” to explore every option to help her son, and discovered Happy Talkers and the School of Imagination.
“They taught Kevin there was a cause and effect to language,” said Kojimi, something many children with autism don’t intuitively understand. “The individual attention provided by the school far exceeds the services of your typical preschool,” she said.
Today, Kevin is 8 and has mainstreamed into the Pleasanton school district. His mom has a message for parents who wonder if their children are suffering from a developmental disability: trust your instinct and seek assistance from experts.
In fact, on Saturday, May 30, the School of Imagination and Child Care Links are bringing together over 50 specialists in child development, pediatrics, speech pathology, occupational therapy, audiology and psychology to offer free screening, assistance, and immediate referrals to agencies to any Bay Area parents who are concerned that their children may be suffering from autism or similar disabilities.
Called the “Happy Talkers Community Outreach Fair,” the event is the most comprehensive workshop in the history of the Bay Area addressing developmental delay and autism early intervention.
Founded in 2000 by Charlene and Mitch Sigman, Happy Talkers has served more than 3,000 children with speech delays, developmental disabilities and autism. The program provides individualized or classroom speech and occupational therapies for any student.
Charlene Sigman notes that studies by the Centers for Disease Control show autism is detectable in one out of 150 children, yet many children are not diagnosed and opportunities for early intervention are often missed. In California alone, the number of children diagnosed with autism has increased by 400 percent since 1994.
According to Sigman, early screening and diagnosis for children between 18 months and three years are critical because intervention therapies during this brief window of time can help kids achieve key developmental milestones.
“The diagnosis is the beginning,” said Kojimi. “Early intervention opens up all kinds of possibilities for the future.”
The free screenings offered on May 30 will take place between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 7625 Ridgeline Drive at the Schaefer Ranch Model Homes in Dublin, near the future site of the School of Imagination.
To register or learn more about this event, call (877) 543-7852 or visit www.schoolofimagination.org/outreach.