What is autism?
Autism is a developmental disability resulting from a neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the brain. It is characterized by the abnormal development of communication skills, social skills and reasoning. Autism affects 1 in 88 children. Boys are affected four times as often as girls.
Learning the signs of autism and detecting them early is a big key in development. Some symptoms include impairment in social interaction, fixation on inanimate objects, inability to communicate normally and resistance to changes in daily routine. Characteristic traits include lack of eye contact, repetition of words or phrases, unmotivated tantrums, inability to express needs verbally and heightened senses, but some may experience insensitivity to pain.
Efforts to start a non-profit group for autism awareness in the Barton County area will include an Autism Walk next month at Great Bend’s Brit Spaugh Zoo.
Children and families affected by autism will make the first lap of the Sept. 22 walk, with all supporters joining them on the second lap, said Amy Humphrey, who with Saylem Felke, is one of the local event organizers. Activities they hope to offer that day will include a bounce house, carnival games, kids races, face painting and fingernail painting, vendors and a raffle with items that have been donated.
The 2012 “Road to Recovery - Spreading Hope Across Kansas” walk will run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22 at the zoo, but only if organizers have a commitment from at least 100 people by this Saturday, Sept. 1, Humphrey said. As of Tuesday they were near that goal.
The future group is called The Kanye Cross Autism Awareness Project, after Humphrey’s 8-year-old son. Members will have a truck entered in Monday’s Labor Day Parade at Hoisington, and will be handing out fliers. Or people can get more information and registration forms by calling Felke, 620-617-5965, or Humphrey, 620-727-0575. Anyone who wants to order a walk T-shirt needs to register by Sept. 15.
Humphrey and Felke are organizing this event with help from the Manhattan group Autism Meet Optimism, which held its second annual autism walk earlier this year. A portion of the money raised at Great Bend’s first walk will go to AMO to help fund an autism therapy center in Manhattan. Part of the money raised this year will go to the Hoisington Unified School District 431 Education Foundation, earmarked for autism training for teachers, as well as technologies and supplies. “Insurance doesn’t cover a lot of things,” Humphrey said.
The beneficiaries of the fundraiser will change in future years, Humphrey said. “After we get our project going for next year and are able to register as our own non-profit, all funds will stay local.”
Awareness is crucial to development in children with autism. Kanye was diagnosed at age 3, attended Helping Hands Preschool and, thanks to a grant, received intensive behavioral therapy, his mother said. This helped allow him to enter kindergarten in Hoisington as part of a mainstream classroom at the appropriate age.