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School of Imagination to give free developmental, autism screenings today

Happy Talkers program critical to early intervention efforts, school says

Dublin-based School of Imagination will offer free early intervention screenings for developmental delays and autism starting at 10 a.m. today.

The Happy Talkers Community Outreach program will allow parents to receive answers, resources and referrals in a few hours.

Mitch and Charlene Sigman, founders of the School of Imagination and the Happy Talkers program, said these screenings are critical and would normally take months to obtain.

The outreach fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at 7625 Ridgeline Drive, the Schaefer Ranch Model Homes section in Dublin. To register, call (877) KIDS-TLC or visit http://soi4kids.org/outreach.html.

Happy Talkers Community Outreach is in its third year, with more than 50 volunteers providing 246 screenings last year. These experts include pediatricians, speech language pathologists, occupational therapists, child development specialists, psychologists, social workers, audiologists and officials from the Regional Center, First Five California, Autism Speaks and area school districts.

"We are honored to hold the Happy Talkers Community Outreach Fair which is part of our goal to ensure that every child receives help as early as possible," said Charlene Sigman, an award-wining speech therapist. "For a child in need, help will begin the very same day. Parents will receive information as well as relief from experts and ultimately a chance to change their child's future. They can learn about developmental milestones, new ideas and cutting edge therapies to empower them so they can make educated decisions about their child's education and development."

The Centers for Disease Control reports that autism is detectable in one out of 100 children, yet many children are not diagnosed.

"Sixty percent of the children screened for autism will require additional testing, services and support," said Sigman. "We need to increase nationwide awareness of autism and developmental delay through early detection and intervention to ensure no child falls between the cracks."

The Fair was launched through partnerships with Child Care Links, California First Five-Alameda County, Pleasanton North Rotary Club, Comcast, Schaefer Ranch Homes of Dublin and the City of Dublin.

Organizations that are providing clinical and referral services include Tri-Valley Pediatrics, Regional Center of the East Bay, Palo Alto Medical Foundation, ValleyCare Health Systems, Axis Community Health, Autism Speaks and the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation.

--Emily West

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