Monthly Archives: April 2014

Making Things a Little Better . . . .

“The purpose of life is to contribute in some way to make things better.”
– Robert F. Kennedy

I can hardly believe it’s been almost 4 years that I have worked at Community Autism Resources as their Event Coordinator.  Each month I plan one of our free monthly Family Events and organize the Sensory Programs that we run throughout the year across our service region.

One of the things I love about my job is that I am always learning.  My best teachers are the CAR families.  Every time someone calls and we help them through any type of situation with their child/loved one, the experience is another lesson for me.
I started my relationship with CAR just like everyone else.  I called and connected with someone who had shared my experience of being a parent of a child with ASD.  I eventually became a volunteer and that led to my current position.  I initially struggled with making the decision to take this position because I worried that I would not be able to balance being a mother of a child with ASD and being a good employee.  In the long run, I knew that I wanted to somehow give back and work with the local autism community.
Prior to working here, I pretty much believed that CAR was funded by the State and that everything they offered and provided was covered by this funding.  Since all their services are free, I just figured that made the most sense.

Upon working at CAR, however, I became aware of the whole truth. CAR is very fortunate that they are in most part funded by the Department of Developmental Services through a grant that they were awarded.   CAR works closely with and has a very good working relationship with DDS.  What I didn’t realize was that our free monthly family events were not fully funded by this grant money.  CAR uses the money raised through fundraising (mainly our Annual Hearts & Hands Walk for Autism and Family Fun Day) to hold a free family event for our families every month.

Why does this matter?  Well it got me thinking. . . . if this is what I thought, maybe some others believed this too.

We are getting ready to announce all the info for this year’s walk.  We understand the financial burden that can come with having a child with ASD.  We LOVE providing free monthly events so that families can get out together for a few hours.  Our family events provide a genuinely accepting environment for our families.  It is an opportunity for the whole family to be together and experience something new or just have fun!  Someone recently told me that when they go to the movies with their family of 5, the entire night (just at the theater alone) can cost close to $100.  Never mind if you had to leave prior to the movie ending because one child was experiencing something challenging.  This is why our events are so important to us and our families.

I hope you will consider forming a team at this year’s walk or sponsoring an existing team.  These funds that we raise are so crucial – 100% of the monies raised go back to our families.

If forming or sponsoring a team is not possible, perhaps you know a corporation or local business who would be interested in becoming a sponsor for our Walk.  Your help in supporting our Walk is always appreciated.

In helping us with our fundraising efforts, you help families in your community affected by ASD and contribute to making things a little better for them!

The New Autism Rates… Many Questions, Few Answers

By Jan Randall

Last week the CDC released these numbers: 1 in 68 children in the United States has Autism. Breaking it down even further, it means that 1 in 42 boys, 1 in 189 girls and 1.2 million people under the age of 21 are affected.

I don’t know about you but I feel sick and very sad. I also have some questions, and not all of them have clear answers.

The new numbers were gathered from children who were born in 2002 and were evaluated in 2010. These are children who are now 12 years old. Why is it taking four years to get up to date information on the number of children with ASD? If the numbers are 1 in 68 for 12 year olds, what are they for children who are 8 years old, or 6 years old or younger?

With one in 68 children on the spectrum how can Autism still not be considered a national health emergency?

There are conflicting reports related to the release of this new information.

From the Associated Press article released the same day as the new numbers, this quote: “health officials say the new number may not mean autism is occurring more often”

The same evening as the AP article, on ABC’s World News Tonight Diane Sawyer interviewed Dr. Richard Besser, Pediatrician and former Acting Director of the CDC who said, “Why the surge? It could be better diagnosis, but experts do say there are more children with autism.”

Well if experts say there are more children with Autism why aren’t people asking why?

In 2012 the National Institute of Mental Health posted this on their website: “genetic and environmental factors appear to be involved” in the cause of Autism.

Where are the investigative journalists who will ask the hard questions about what the environmental factors are and how are those environmental factors related to why the numbers have risen so dramatically over the last 20 years?

 But it is not just Autism. Let’s look at two other rates:

Asthma rates in children as of 2011 are 1 in 10. The CDC says: “While we don’t know why asthma rates are rising, we do know that people can control their symptoms…”

And food allergies, also from the CDC website: “From 1997 to 2007, the prevalence of reported food allergy increased 18% among children under age 18 years” No comments as to why, so I looked to the Peanut Institute which had this to say: The science is not clear as to what causes peanut allergy. Both genetic and environmental factors appear to be involved.

Sound familiar? So why aren’t more people asking what is happening to this generation of children?

But back to Autism. I have friends on Facebook from across the US who have children, teens and adults with Autism. We spent a lot of time on Thursday discussing the new numbers. The anger and frustration at what is not being done was profound. I think my friend Cheryl from Mississippi expressed it best when she said we are “losing the next generation of fire fighters, police officers, military, truck drivers, farmers…replaced by people who need life time assistance…” Well said and scarily true.

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2 weeks ago I wrote the blog: “What does April mean to You?” and I talked about the need for April to be Autism Action Month. I’d like to ask you to read it and find a way to take action for all these children and adults who are affected by Autism today and for the generation to come. Think about this: Without legislative activity and additional funding how will the education systems be able to handle an increase in numbers if they are already struggling? How will Human Service organizations cope with numbers which grow every year?

You may also want to take a few moments to check out the following links from a variety of national Autism organizations and their take on the numbers as well as the Action Alert from the Autism Action Network, a national, non-partisan, grassroots, political action organization formed by parents. These are all well worth reading. Then please consider what you can do, because it’s only by acting together and demanding action that we’ll begin to get answers.

Action Alert from the Autism Action Network

New Autism Rates comments from Autism Research Institute

National Autism Association Autism now affects 1 in 68-children

Autism Society New prevalence rates