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Tonawanda Town Board agrees to mother’s request for child autism sign on street

A mother’s plea to have a sign installed on her street alerting drivers about her nonverbal autistic son was heard Monday by the Tonawanda Town Board, which immediately agreed to have the sign placed even though the state does not approve of such signs.

“We can put it up, anyway, and it’s the right thing to do,” said Councilwoman Lisa M. Chimera. “As a mother, you want to do whatever you can to protect your children, and we feel the same way.”

Deerhurst Park Boulevard resident Dawn M. Stinner asked the board during its meeting Monday night for a sign along the road stating “Child With Autism Area” to help protect her 6-year-old son, Griffin, who is prone to “elopement,” or suddenly bolting away from a caregiver.

“All I want is a sign to make drivers aware there may be a fragile child in the area who may not see or hear their vehicle coming,” she said.

Stinner told the board that autism is the most common disability diagnosed in society today, affecting 1 in every 42 boys and 1 in every 189 girls.

“Some of these children, including my own son, do not have the ability to adjust to their surroundings in order to protect themselves,” she said. “So it’s my job to do the protecting.”

Her extra precautions have included alarm systems on her house, extra locks on her doors and a fenced-in yard. “These are adjustments I have made to keep my child safe,” she said.

Stinner said she originally contacted the town’s Highway Department but was told that signs are managed by the Police Department, which denied her request based on state law.

“Within a few days, I received a response that the sign in question, ‘Child With Autism Area,’ was illegal and that there is no proof that a sign would raise awareness or change how drivers adjust their driving pattern to accommodate a child with autism since the spectrum is so wide,” she said. “Well, I can tell you that this is absurd. You cannot tell me that my child’s disability is any less important than that of a deaf child or blind child. Both signs exist in the town and are ‘legal.’ ”

Louis M. Blazer, a Forbes Avenue resident who came to the meeting in support of Stinner, said that his request for an autism sign was approved in November but that it has not yet been installed.

The board told Stinner and Blazer that the Highway Department would install their signs within eight to 10 days.

Also Monday, the board noted that David C. Marrano, the assessor shared between the Town and City of Tonawanda, announced in a July 22 letter to town officials that he is resigning, effective Aug. 7, to take the same post in the Town of Amherst. The Amherst Town Board approved the appointment last week.

His appointment in Amherst is effective Aug. 10 and runs through Sept. 30, 2019, at an annual salary of $107,850. He replaces retiring assessor Ann M. Terranova.

Marrano was appointed in February 2012 as joint assessor for the Tonawandas after leaving the Town of Lancaster, where he had been assessor since 2007.