Every year, April 1st marks the first day of national Autism Awareness month. The sponsored event talked about coping with the disease and ways for people to help in finding a cure and improve the lives of the individuals already suffering from Autism. Christie Godowski and Virgina A. Connell, two representatives from AutismSpeaks, a non-profit organization dedicated to Autism, enlightened the audience with staggering statistics like, “1 in every 150 kids will be diagnosed with Autism,” that left students in shock.
A “neurobiological disorder,” the symptoms of autism often persist throughout one’s lifetime and may include: the inability to communicate properly or at all, the failure to express emotion and repetitive behavior known as “tics.” Currently, a cure for this disease does not exist, as scientists and researchers have yet to pinpoint the exact cause of Autism.
Sadly, an overwhelming number of children are being diagnosed with Autism. Ms. Godowski showed a Youtube video that gave the audience an overview of the disease and the background behind “World Autism Awareness Day.”
Following the video, the presenters discussed the four basic components of the organization “AutismSpeaks:” science programs (research), advocacy, family services, and awareness. The research programs are heavily funded and work diligently to find a cure. They stressed that early detection of Autism is currently the best way to deal with the disease.
Autism advocacy and awareness are crucial to the success of the organization and occur on both the national and state level. Nationally, the Global Autism Public Health Initiative was formed to create a global compilation of Autism related research. At a state level, “Walk Now for Autism” serves as a way to both inform the public about Autism and raise money; in the past four years, 128 million dollars has raised! AutismSpeaks also works to help the families of autism patients. Since Autism has such a wide spectrum of long-term symptoms, the disease often takes a toll on the other family members. Ms. Godowski stated that “80% of marriages that produce an Autistic child end in divorce,” stemming from the financial stress developed because most autism services, therapies and testing are not covered by insurance. In the past year, however, AutismSpeaks gave out over $800,000 dollars in grants to families in need.
To conclude the presentation, Ms. Godowski reminded the student audience that awareness and volunteerism the keys to the success of AutismSpeaks. Volunteer opportunities can be found online at: www.walknowforautism.org, where people may also register for Walk Now for Autism.