Byram council marks autism month


Joshua Rubenstein speaks to the Byram Township Council and administration on Tuesday, April 2, 2019 about autism awareness before his father, Mayor Alex Rubenstein, declared April to be Autism Awareness Month in Byram. Seated (L-R) are Township Accountant Ray Sarinelli, Chief Financial Officer Ashleigh Frueholz, Councilman David Gray, Councilman Harvey Roseff, Township Clerk Doris Flynn, Mayor Rubenstein, Township Manager Joe Sabatini, Councilman Scott Olson, Deputy Mayor Nisha Kash, and Township Attorney Tom Collins. (Photo by Mandy Coriston)

By Mandy Coriston
Byram - On what was also World Autism Day, Byram Mayor Alex Rubenstein read and signed a proclamation declaring April as Autism Awareness Month at the April 2 council meeting. The autism awareness campaign is headed by Kara Valeich, a member of the Byram School District’s Child Study Team, who brought paper ribbons and drawings to decorate the council chambers, and lapel pins with autism awareness’s distinctive colorful jigsaw puzzle emblem for the council and administrators.
Valeich and others sported red T-shirts, which she said were designed by 15-year-old Noah Dolan, a district student who is on the autism spectrum, and thanked the council for its support of autism awareness through the years.
Councilman David Gray said he was “floored” with Valeich’s efforts, which include schoolwide projects, fundraising, and outreach.
“I’m so impressed with the kids, and with the work you do,” Gray said.
“The services offered by the school to children with autism is second to none,” said Mayor Rubenstein, whose praise comes from firsthand knowledge; two of his sons are on the autism spectrum.
The mayor’s eldest son, Joshua, now a student at Sussex County Technical School, spoke at the meeting on the struggles and blessings of living with the high-functioning form of autism known as Asperger’s Syndrome
“There are pros and cons to having Asperger’s,” the younger Rubenstein said, “Sometimes I struggle with boredom- I get tics and can’t sit still. But I’m studying engineering, and my autism helps me hyper-focus on my work. It’s going to help me succeed.”
The biggest benefit though, according to Joshua, was being able to help when his brother was also diagnosed.
“I felt like I could relate to him, and let him know it was okay and I understood what he was going through,” he said, “I just want to thank my dad and the council for recognizing autism in our community and helping raise awareness.”