Palo Alto Medical Foundation Newsroom

PAMF Physicians, Staff Volunteer at Autism & Developmental Screenings Event – April 21 in Dublin

The School of Imagination, a Dublin-based, non-profit education center that pairs typically developing children and children with developmental disabilities, is hosting the sixth annual “Happy Talkers Community Outreach” program on Saturday, April 21, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the School of Imagination/Happy Talkers, 9801 Dublin Blvd., in Dublin.

The Community Outreach event is the largest and most comprehensive program of its kind in California history, offering free developmental delay and autism early intervention screenings and support for families. In just a few short hours, parents will receive answers about their child, a roadmap and on-site referrals to a host of support agencies, critical early intervention assistance that would normally take months to obtain.

More than a dozen Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF) physicians and staff are volunteering at the April 21 event. PAMF has been a sponsor of the School of Imagination for several years and funded a therapy room in the new school that opened in October 2011.

Last year, more than 140 volunteer experts donated their time to provide more than 400 screenings. These experts included pediatricians, speech language pathologists, occupational therapists, behavioral specialists, and insurance specialists, as well as officials from the UC Davis MIND Institute, Stanford Autism Center and First 5 California.

“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,” said Charlene Sigman, award-wining speech therapist who founded The School of Imagination. “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.”

Mark Ibanez, lead sports anchor for KTVU-TV (the Bay Area FOX affiliate) is spokesperson for the event. Ibanez, father of four children, has a six-year old son diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

“The School of Imagination/Happy Talkers program creates an environment that makes you feel that you are on the right path for your child and your family. They help you see that it is possible to get through and find the services and support you need for your child,” added Ibanez.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), autism is detectable in one out of 88 children yet many of these children are not diagnosed and a critical window of opportunity for early intervention is missed. In California alone, the number of children diagnosed with autism has increased by 400 percent since 1994.

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

The Outreach Program was launched in 2006 through partnerships with PAR For Kids’ Sake, Child Care Links, California First 5 -Alameda County, Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Black Tie Transportation, Pleasanton North Rotary Club, Tri-Valley Pediatrics, Becton Healthcare Resources, and Discovery Homes.


Mitch Sigman
School of Imagination and Happy Talkers