JOIN AUTISM SPEAKS AND MAKE A DIFFERENCE FOR MILLIONS

SPECIAL FOR THE AJT

50 years ago, there was little information known about autism and the disorder it caused to those affected. Today, it is the fastest growing developmental disorder in the US, and organizations, like Autism Speaks, are helping families become more educated and efficient in handling the disorder.

Autism is defined as a complex brain disorder characterized by difficulties in social interaction and both verbal and nonverbal communication, among other symptoms. These signs start to emerge early on in a child’s development, around age two or three. There are different types of autism that are grouped under Autism Spectrum Disorder. In America today, one in 68 children is diagnosed; about three million individuals in the US are currently affected, with the numbers quickly rising.

Extensive research proves that several contributions can cause the disorder, such as gene mutations and environmental factors. While scientists still research the cause for further evidence, Autism Speaks acts to increase awareness of these issues and to change the future for those affected by autism.

Autism Speaks was founded in 2005 by Bob and Suzanne Wright, who are grandparents of a child with autism. Their longtime friend, Bernie Marcus donated $25 million to help financially launch the organization. Since then, Autism Speaks has grown into the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization. The mission of Autism Speaks includes helping families and those affected through the difficulties of autism through science, advocacy, family services, and awareness.

Autism Speaks’ signature fundraising event Walk Now For Autism Speaks, happens annually in more than 100 cities across the US and Canada. The local Georgia Walk Now for Autism Speaks, in partnership with the Marcus Autism Center, is hosting the 10th annual Walk on Sunday, May 18th at Atlantic Station – Pinnacle Lot. Registration is FREE and the walk welcomes all family, friends, supporters and those on the spectrum to enjoy a day of fun.

There will be free children’s area crafts, face painting, Georgia Bubble man, live bird shows, amazing live performances, walk around appearances from Look a Like Characters, Hope and Will of Children’s Health Care of Atlanta, Depot from Georgia Aquarium plus Atlanta’s very own, Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Hawks, Falcons Cheerleaders and Gwinnett Braves.

Parents and caregivers can meet with over 40 resource fair vendors and stop in for a quick bite to eat from the food trucks available onsite. Walkers and volunteers come from all over Georgia to support. Alpha Xi Delta Women’s Fraternity has declared Autism Speaks their national philanthropy and work with the organization at several of their philanthropy events throughout the year, including the four local Georgia chapters attending the Walk. For more information and to register visit www.walknowforautismspeaks.org/georgia

Autism Speaks supports the autism community by providing community grants, summer camp grants, post-secondary education grants and more through our family services. Georgia also takes part in the Light it Up Blue campaign every April for autism awareness. April 2nd is World Autism Day.

An issue that the Georgia chapter strongly advocates is Ava’s Law, support for autism insurance coverage for Georgia families. The cost of taking care of a child with autism can average up to $60,000 a year and, unfortunately, there is a diagnostic exclusion not covered by many insurance companies. Ava’s law would provide state-regulated coverage that would include diagnosis, pharmacy care, psychological care, and behavioral health treatment. 36 states have passed the reform and Georgia is seeking to be added to it. To receive legislative updates, visit www.AutismVotes.org.

Editor’s note: If your family is seeking advice about autism and diagnosis, Autism Speaks has provided a response team. The team is available 9 am to 1 pm local time at 888-288-4762 or can be emailed at familyservices@autismspeaks.org. For more information about Autism Spectrum Disorder and Autism Speaks Georgia community, visit www.communities.autismspeaks.org/ga or call (770) 451-0570