Steamboat’s Yampa Valley Autism Program keeps growing |

Steamboat’s Yampa Valley Autism Program keeps growing

Masquerade Ball benefits support services for families affected by autism

Margaret Hair

Supporters of the Yampa Valley Autism Program gathered for the local nonprofit's inaugural Masquerade Ball in fall 2008. The second annual event, benefiting services and programs provided by the Yampa Valley Autism Program, is from 6 to 11 p.m. Saturday at Three Peaks Grill.

— When guests come through the door at Yampa Valley Autism Program’s second annual Masquerade Ball, they’ll have a chance to bid on masks created by some of the children the program serves.

Tagged with information about the child who designed it, each auction-item mask benefits an organization that in the past several years has grown from its grass-roots to provide services to more than 40 families in Routt and Moffat counties.

The Masquerade Ball is from 6 to 11 p.m. Saturday at Three Peaks Grill, and it includes live music by the Worried Men, dinner music by the Fairlie Well Trio, a cocktail hour, dinner, drawings, a live auction and dancing. Tickets are $60 for individuals and $115 for couples.

Live auction items include a five-day, four-night stay in Belize; an Avalanche package with hockey game tickets and a signed jersey; a five-day stay in Puerto Vallarta; and a gourmet dinner with limo transportation.

Yampa Valley Autism Program provides services such as social groups for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, early intervention and information, and respite opportunities for families, said executive director LuEtta Loeber.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “autism spectrum disorders are a group of developmental disabilities that can cause severe social, communication and behavior challenges. People with ASDs handle information in their brain differently than other people.” An ASD can “range from mild to very severe,” according to the CDC.

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Yampa Valley Autism Program provides financial support and resources for families to obtain “vital therapies” such as speech, occupational therapy, behavioral therapy and physical therapy, Loeber said. Program board members hope to bring Applied Behavior Analysis training to Steamboat Springs in the next year, she said.

Who the program serves

Lisa Lorenz was among the local parents who founded Yampa Valley Autism Program in the early 2000s. Her 16-year-old son, Sawyer, is on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum.

“He’s right on grade level as far as academics, but his challenges are more with his social situations with his peer group in particular,” Lisa Lorenz said. Anxiety or frustration with certain things people say, and being uncomfortable in certain environments are additional challenges, she said.

Sawyer Lorenz, a sophomore at Steamboat Springs High School, has participated in social activities through the program, such as a gardening project for young adults called Community Cultivation and a summer camp focused on socialization at Humble Ranch Education and Therapy Center. The camp’s benefits were noticeable, Lisa Lorenz said.

“They learn to talk about things that are challenging for them and how to communicate better, how to start conversations : and how to appropriately handle their feelings of frustration or anxiety,” she said.

Outside the program, Sawyer has an avid interest in computer gaming and game design; is a huge Avalanche fan; loves comedy, with some of his favorite performers being former “Saturday Night Live” comedians Will Ferrell and Chris Farley; works with horses, swine and archery in 4-H; and participates in school drama productions. In November, he’ll play a king who’s been cursed to silence in the musical comedy “Once Upon a Mattress.”

Learn more about autism

As Yampa Valley Autism Program has grown through the years, so has awareness and reported incidence of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

“The CDC last week announced what we had been suspecting for a long time, that the rate of incidence for children being diagnosed on an autism spectrum, it went from one in 150 to one in 91,” Loeber said. A study based on CDC numbers in October’s Pediatrics journal estimates the rate of ASD at 1 in 100 children. Another study released this month puts the rate at one in 91 children.

“If you do not know someone in your own family or know of a family that has someone on the autism spectrum, you will,” Loeber said about the new statistics.

To learn more about the Yampa Valley Autism Program and the services it helps provide, and to read up-to-date articles related to autism, go to

If you go

What: Second annual Masquerade Ball, a benefit for the Yampa Valley Autism Program

When: 6 to 11 p.m. Saturday

Where: Three Peaks Grill

Cost: $60 for individuals, $115 for couples; corporate tables start at $500

Call: Yampa Valley Autism Program at 870-6257 or All That Jazz at 879-4422 for tickets

More information: Masks are required at the masquerade ball; buy one at the door or bring your own. There will be prizes for the best masks. Learn more about the Yampa Valley Autism Program at their Web site.