Autism benefit weekend coming Aug. 3-5

Since Dave Fauria was born five years ago, his parents, Wendi and Garritt Fauria have learned what it's like to raise a child with autism.

Until a year ago, Dave had not spoken a word, and now he's not only talking, but spelling just about anything.

"Spell 'anything,'" said his father, Garritt Fauria.

"A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G," said Dave, and his parents and two therapists cheered.

"B-I-R-D," Dave said when his dad asked him to spell "bird." And when asked to spell "wolf," Dave replied "W-O-L-F," and his dad let out a howl.

Dave laughed.

Dave also knows important information now, like his phone number, which he learned only a few months ago.

"He really, in the last year, has progressed amazingly," said Wendi Fauria. "He can spell words and read and type. He just turned 5 and he can tell you that now. It's pretty cool."

Dave's parents tried a lot of programs, but settled on Applied Behavioral Analysis, an intensive one-on-one therapy. Since summer started, Dave is going to the Discovery Center, a "preschool and kinder fun club," offered by Douglas County Parks & Recreation.

"We've gone the ABA route," said Dave's mom. "He goes to the Discovery Center every day.

"The kids there are awesome," said Dave's dad.

Including his time at the Discovery Center, Dave is in therapy 35-40 hours a week. During the summer, Douglas County School District provides an aide three days a week, and Dave's parents pay for an aide the other four days, which costs them about $5,000 a month, plus an additional $100-$200 for medical treatment.

"He's way past kindergarten academically," said Wendi Fauria. "But, he needs the socialization. That's why the school district pays for Discovery."

"He's brilliant," said Garritt Fauria. "He can read and write and memorize everything. I look at it like he's got a huge ram (memory), but a slow processor."

"He's always happy," said Dave's mom, smiling at her son who was laughing hysterically while his dad tickled him on the floor. "Honestly, right now his biggest deficit is attention and focus."

Wendi Fauria said besides behavioral problems, autistic children often have gastro-intestinal complications. Dave is on a strict diet, takes supplements and has quarterly medical tests. Dr. Miriam Jang in San Rafael, Calif., has been treating Dave since he was 22 months old. She works under the Defeat Autism Now movement.

"There have been many kids within the DAN movement that have been cured of autism," Dave's mom said.

The Faurias keep detailed data sheets on everything Dave does - what he eats, drinks, his moods, sleep habits and every time he goes to the bathroom.

Wendi's father, David Semas, acts as her adviser in developing a financial plan to build a center for autism in Carson Valley. Families for Effective Autism Treatment was formed in October 2003. FEAT's first Autism Benefit for Children, a charity dinner at the Semas ranch in the Foothills, was held in 2004.

The fourth annual FEAT ABC Weekend will take place Aug. 3-5. The main event is a dinner and concert held Saturday, Aug. 4, at Buffalo Creek Ranch. Music will be by David John and the Comstock Cowboys. Catering is by Men Wielding Fire. The evening also includes both live and silent auctions. Tickets are $100 and are available at Casa Bella Home & Garden Center in Minden, Glen Eagles Restaurant in Carson City and online at

The concert is sandwiched between two additional events which will take place at Genoa Lakes Golf Course: the Buffalo Creek Invitational Golf Tournament on Friday, Aug. 3, and a benefit champagne brunch on Sunday, Aug. 5. The cost to participate in the golf tournament is $300 per person ($200 tax deductible). Golf sponsorships are available at $500 each. To register for the golf tournament or to sponsor the event, e-mail or for information visit or call 782-4138. The champagne brunch 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Antoci's Restaurant at Genoa Lakes has been added for the first time this year. The cost for the champagne brunch is $28.95. For reservations call 782-6645.

FEAT generated more than $100,000 in net proceeds in 2006, of which 40 percent went toward a fund to build an autism center and 60 percent was given to families in Northern Nevada with autistic children.

"On average, one in 150 children are born autistic nationally," said Wendi Fauria.

She said they are in the process of applying for a grant to build the center, but the grant won't cover the land it would be constructed on. That money will have to be donated or earned.

The Faurias admit they are lucky to have so many people on their side, like Wendi's father and the therapists from Behavior Education Services Training.

BEST therapist Jennifer Houlmiere has known the Faurias since she was 12 years old and was in a youth group at Calvary Chapel where Garritt Fauria used to be the youth pastor. Houlmiere and others who were in the youth group decided to become ABA therapists after knowing Dave.

"Because of being youth pastor, we got the chance to meet all these phenomenal kids that want to help us," said Dave's dad.

Houlmiere is one of eight people on Dave's "team." She is a therapist for four other autistic children as well. She said Dave has come a long way in his therapy sessions.

"Oh my gosh, the language, I don't think he was speaking any words a year ago," said Houlmiere. "There's no tantrums anymore. The eye contact - the fact that he will look at you and come to you is huge."

"Actually, the most amazing thing we've seen is his ability to say 'yes' and 'no,'" said Dave's dad.

"It's a lot easier to keep the faith when you have these little glimmers of hope," Dave's mom added.

-- Jo Rafferty can be reached at or 782-5121, ext. 210.


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