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Long Island

Fair draws special needs families to Wantagh

Brian Calhoun, center, leads the Free Players of

Brian Calhoun, center, leads the Free Players of Old Bethpage as the Interchange Business Organization (IBO) and the Mosaic Foundation for Autism bring their first Interactive Special Needs Resource Fair to the Mosaic School for Autism in Wantagh on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014. Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

A one-stop shop for Long Islanders with special needs drew more than 400 families to the first Interactive Special Needs Resource Fair on Saturday.

The free fair, organized by the Interchange Business Organization and The Mosaic Foundation for Autism, was held at The Mosaic School for Autism in Wantagh. It featured more than 50 special needs professionals, including speech, music and art therapists, activity coordinators, financial consultants, child and adult advocates, and social program providers. The day also had Zumba for children, yoga, arts and crafts, games and prizes.

"The idea is to make it an interactive fair, and the kids are able to do different things as they go table to table," said co-organizer Tom Gibson of Glen Cove, founder of IBO, who has a 14-year-old son who is deaf. "The idea is for them to experience the service right here firsthand."

Craig Perry, 39, of Patchogue walked around the fair to find out about programs that could benefit his daughter Emma, 10, who has Robertsonian translocation, a rare form of Down syndrome.

"There is nothing like being face to face," said Perry, who tries to get his daughter active through dance, Zumba and swimming classes.

For Sarah Geller, 33, of Levittown, a mother of autistic boys ages 2 and 3, the new Family Center for Autism in Garden City is a breath of fresh air. The center, similar to a YMCA, is geared toward children and adults with autism and other developmental and learning disabilities.

"This event brings it all to a central place and shows that we have options," Geller said as her kids were entertained by balloon dinosaurs. "There are a lot of people who care about our kids."

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