By Molly Sugarman
It’s a first for the 24th Precinct, but hopefully not the last. On April 30 at PS 163, the precinct will host Autism Awareness Day, thanks to the efforts of Police Officer Adriane Starace, who came up with the idea, canvassed for sponsors, and is footing some of the bill herself.
Starace is the sister and the mother of people with autism and April is Autism Awareness Month. The event is open to all families, not just those with autistic members. “The whole point of this is for the public, to educate them about those on the [Autism Disorder] spectrum,” Starace said. “You will come in contact with kids you have to be more patient with when interacting with them.”
The color of the day is the rainbow because neurodiverse children are as varied as the colors of the rainbow.
Starace has organized a wide range of sponsors as well as activities for the day: cotton candy, face painting, a bouncy house, balloons, a DJ, and sensory toys for the kids.
To honor the sound sensitivity many autistics have, the DJ will keep the music low to avoid triggering anyone and Autism Speaks, a nonprofit that supports autism research, will bring pom poms so people can wave them instead of clapping.
One of those they will be waving pom poms for is Mia, Starace’s daughter, a singer, who will perform the national anthem.
The canine unit and fire department will also be on hand and, perhaps, an 80-foot-long truck equipped with video games — for those who aren’t triggered by them.
“I’m hoping for a great turnout,” Starace said. “[Autism awareness] starts with making autism more visible to the community. Everyone in the precinct will be more aware.”
Her goal is to make this an annual event for the 24th, and that it be so well received that other precincts follow suit.
The Autism Awareness Event will be held from 11 am to 3 pm on Saturday, April 30th, at P.S. 163, 163 West 97th Street, in the gymnasium.