It’s Autism Awareness Month, and Deen’s Living a Life Without Limits with UCP-OC

Deen and Knobby
Deen and Knobby

As you know, September is Autism Awareness Month. But did you also know that 33% of children served by UCP-OC have a diagnosis on the autism spectrum? UCP-OC helps children, like Deen, with autism spectrum disorder to achieve their full potential and provides important services and support for their families.

Deen has been receiving childcare services from UCP-OC for a year and it has made a huge difference in his life, as well as his mom’s. He is autistic and completely deaf on one side, and also suffers from high anxiety and sensory integration disorder. These challenges make most activities much more difficult for Deen, including school and social interaction. UCP-OC’s Inclusive Childcare program helps Deen and his service dog, Knobby, to participate in an inclusive after-school program with the support he needs to be safe and thrive. This program provides great therapeutic and social benefits for Deen while allowing his mom, who is a single mother, to work full time to support them.

He is obsessed with the military and is going to be a fighter pilot and a captain when he grows up.  He also loves transformers, swimming, Star Wars, amusement parks, go karts, and anything active or athletic.

UCP-OC is proud to feature Deen in our upcoming annual report, which will be released later this fall. Keep an eye out for the report to learn more about Deen and his Life Without Limits.


UCP-OC 2014 Life Without Limits Gala Video

Recent studies show a staggering statistic that 1 in 6 children in the U.S. will be diagnosed with a developmental disability. UCP-OC proudly serves the 1 in 6 children in our community that make up this statistic.


Learn more about the services UCP-OC provides:

Child of the Month: December 2013

December 2013: Brooke

Brooke ended her first evening at the Friday Night Club telling us she met a friend; something we had never heard her say before.

Brooke & Natalie
Brooke with Friday Night Club Founder Natalie Cernius

At 15 months of age, we learned our daughter Brooke would have challenges ahead of her. Now 16 and with a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, social interactions with peers are often difficult and distressing for her, many times leading to seclusion. As she entered her teen years, Brooke saw her sister socialize with friends and wanted to participate in “teenage” activities, but it was difficult to find a place where she would fit in. We knew there were many teens for Brooke to meet, there was just nowhere for this to take place. As parents, this affected us deeply. Then two years ago, through United Cerebral Palsy of Orange County (UCP-OC), we heard about the Friday Night Club.

Friday Night Club opened Brooke’s world. This bi-weekly event is a place where teens with disabilities feel welcomed and accepted. It gives teens with or without disabilities the opportunity to play games, watch movies, sing karaoke and simply spend time with one another in an inclusive and fun environment. Friday Night Club gives teens with special needs something to look forward to.

Every person deserves a place to belong and friends to share in their journey, and Brooke now has that. This club brought out positive emotions in Brooke we had never seen, and more than anything we see self-confidence. In addition to Friday Night Club, Brooke looks forward to UCP-OC’s therapeutic fitness and music classes, as well as respite with a trained UCP-OC employee, which also gives us a much needed break. UCP-OC has given our daughter a home.

Kershberg family
Kershberg Family

With your help, Brooke can continue to look forward to Friday Night Club and the other UCP-OC services she and nearly 4,000 Orange County children and families utilize throughout the year. The Friday Night Club is just one of the many programs UCP-OC offers to end the isolation that so many children and teens with special needs feel. Programs at UCP-OC serve the critical developmental, social, and emotional needs of children and teens with disabilities and provide much-needed support to parents and caregivers, including education and skilled childcare.

We invite you to join us in giving back to UCP-OC this season in gratitude for all UCP-OC has done for our daughter and her new friends. We are grateful for a place where teens can feel accepted for who they are. 

UCP-OC relies on your generosity to fill these critical gaps in services. Children, teenagers and young adults with special needs are a growing demographic in Orange County, and are often isolated and overlooked. Together we can foster friendship and acceptance for all children with disabilities in Orange County. Please help children and teens live a Life Without Limits by sending in your gift or going online to today.

Thank you for making a difference in the life of Brooke and her friends at UCP-OC.

Hilary & Mark Kershberg

P.S. Visit to make a gift today and watch Brooke’s video of her journey to friendship.

Hot Off the Press!

This week many of interesting articles have caught my eye, and although I posted a couple of them on our Facebook page I thought I would share them with you all in one place.  A few of these came from the UCP SmartBrief, so as I receive the SmartBrief monthly I will make sure to share it with you on the blog. This is a compilation of the top 10 stories and I thought many of you would benefit from reading them.
So please scroll through and look at a few that interest you!  Please leave us a comment with your opinions!
-Elizabeth Wylie

Child with Down syndrome is featured in Target ad campaign

New Jersey six-year-old Ryan Langston, who has Down syndrome, has appeared in print advertisements for Nordstrom and now is featured as a model in a national campaign for Target. His inclusion in the ads is drawing attention from those who note that the ad does not specifically target those with special needs. “The greatest thing that Nordstrom and Target are doing is that they’re not making any reference to his disability. He’s just another cute kid,” said his father, Jim Langston. Disability Scoop (01/09)

Study finds teens with autism faring well behind the wheel

A majority of teens with high-functioning forms of autism spectrum disorders are driving or learning to drive, according to a new study. The research, based on a national survey of about 300 parents with teens ages 15 to 18 with the disorder, also found that just 12% of teens with the disorder who already were driving had received a traffic ticket or been involved in an accident, compared with 31% of teens without the disorder who had received a ticket and 22% who had experienced an accident. Disability Scoop (01/10)

Study finds few hospitals have services for children with disabilities

Many U.S. psychiatric hospitals lack adequate services for children with autism and other developmental disabilities, according to a study conducted by Matthew Siegel of the Tufts University School of Medicine. The study found that the number of hospital units dedicated to such children has more than doubled over the past decade, to nine, but do not meet the nation’s growing need. Disability Scoop (01/12)

Researchers develop assistive devices for Stephen Hawking

Researchers at Intel are working on new assistive technology to help facilitate communication for renowned scientist Stephen Hawking, whose motor skills continue to deteriorate from a progressive motor neuron disease. Possibilities include devices that detect expressions, eye movement and brain waves, company officials said. TechNewsWorld (01/10)

Voters with disabilities to test iPads in Oregon election

KDRV-TV (Medford, Ore.) (01/12)

Devices enable communication for students with autism

Some students at a Texas private school for children with autism use handheld Vantage Lite computers to communicate. The devices allow students to choose symbols and words to express themselves, which teachers say helps alleviate frustration and behavioral difficulties for some students. “I can’t think of a better gift of language in these communication devices for a child who does not have a voice,” said Rosemary Garcia, the mother of a student. Victoria Advocate (Texas) (01/08)

ESEA draft draws criticism from policy makers, advocates

A draft bill by Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is drawing criticism from some policymakers and education advocates. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and several congressional Democrats object to many aspects of the bill, while special-education advocates say it lacks accountability regarding the education of children with special needs. Education Week (01/10)

Va. show highlights work from artists with disabilities

WVIR-TV (Charlottesville, Va.) (01/11)

Teen once told he’d never walk, now running half-marathon

Matthew Taylor was just 6-months old when he was diagnosed as right-side hemiplegic, and soon after he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. The family was told he would never walk without the assistance of a walker but he surprised everyone at 21 months when he took his first steps. His journey has been filled with therapy, Botox injections and different medications. The difference was seen when he began the SynchroMed II Programmable Pump by Medtronic that administers Baclofen directly to the spine. One day soon after he began using the pump he noticed he could use his right hand to turn on the TV. He began running with the cross-country team and has not looked back since. Fox News 1/13

Claim: Girl denied transplant because she is ‘Mentally Retarded’

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has reportedly told one mother her daughter would not receive a life saving kidney transplant because the 3 year-old has an intellectual disability. The girl, Amelia, has Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome, a chromosomal disorder affecting about 1 in 50,000 people. It is marked by the presence of intellectual disability, developmental delay, seizures and distinct facial characteristics. Now, it appears that the hospital may be changing course, and has asked the family to come back to the hospital to talk about a transplant. Disability Scoop 1/17