Thousands of people gather each year for “Walk Now for Autism Speaks”, the organization’s annual fundraiser held in 100 cities across the U.S.

Thousands of people gather each year for “Walk Now for Autism Speaks”, the organization’s annual fundraiser held in 100 cities across the U.S.

BY PAIGE TANAKA / AJT // Fifty years ago, there was little information about autism. Today, doctors know a great deal about the health and psychological problem that is now the fastest growing developmental disorder in the U.S. [emember_protected custom_msg=”TO CONTINUE READING THIS STORY, PLEASE <a href=”http://atlantajewishtimes.com/join-us/”>CLICK HERE</a>” ]

Fortunately, there are support and advocacy groups, like Autism Speaks, helping families understand the challenges and issues that arise when dealing with an autistic person. Bob and Suzanne Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism, founded Autism Speaks in 2005 with the help of Bernie Marcus, a longtime friend. Marcus donated $25 million to help launch the organization. Since then, Autism Speaks has grown into the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization. Its mission includes helping families and those affected by the disorder through scientific study, family services, advocacy and awareness programs. Autism is a complex brain disorder characterized by difficulties in social interaction and both verbal and nonverbal communication. Signs of the disorder start to emerge early on in a child’s development, generally before the age of three. There are now different types of autism that are grouped under the umbrella of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Experts believe that one in every 88 children in the U.S. suffers with some form of the disorder and that about 2 million people are affected. Research suggests there are multiple factors leading to autistic behavior, including gene mutations and environmental factors. While scientists are still researching the cause for further evidence, Autism Speaks is focused on aiding individuals and their families dealing with the problem. Autism Speaks major fundraising event, “Walk Now For Autism Speaks,” is held each year in more than 100 cities across the U.S. and Canada. The local Georgia “Walk Now for Autism Speaks” is held in partnership with the Marcus Autism Center. Walkers and volunteers come from all over Georgia and, remarkably, the 2013 Atlanta walk raised over $600,000. The 2014 Walk is tentatively scheduled for Sun., May 18th. Later this year, on Nov. 9, Autism Speaks will be hosting a 5K run. The event, set to begin at 7 a.m. at Piedmont Park, will also include a one-mile walk. Autism Speaks supports the autism community by providing a number of grants – community, summer camp and post-secondary education – through its Family Services program. The Georgia chapter also backs Ava’s Law, support for autism insurance coverage in the state. The cost of taking care of a child with autism averages in the area of $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. Autism Speaks also favors lowering the age when children are diagnosed with the disorder, a measure that would, hopefully, lead to early access to care and intervention. Need help? Autism Speaks has a response team in place that can help you with questions about the disorder. Team members are available from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at (888) 288-4762 or by email at familyserviceds@autismspeaks.org. For additional information about Autism Spectrum Disorder and Autism Speaks Georgia community, visit www.communities.autismspeaks.org/ga or call (770) 451-0570. And for additional information about Autism Speaks 5K race in November or to register for the event, visit www.events.autismspeaks.org/georgia5k [/emember_protected]