By Jessica Cobb
Over the past 15 years my view of autism awareness has evolved from a personal and private experience to a public and universal one. At first, autism awareness began in our home. As our family went through the process of understanding and accepting autism, my understanding evolved, and my passion shifted to sharing autism awareness with friends, family, and the community.
Raising autism awareness is vital and our community is fortunate to have a group that brings autism awareness to Newaygo County, especially during April, Autism Awareness month. April is a time that helps to bridge the community with those individuals with autism and their families.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates autism’s prevalence as 1 in 68 children in the United States. This includes 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls. Children with autism grow up to be adults with autism.
Each year, the Newaygo County Autism Community helps to bring families together at their annual Walk for Autism. As a parent, it is amazing to see the support of businesses and community members that give generously and attend the Walk each year. Also, having our 1st Responders from local fire and police departments participate in this day helps build positive relationships with those on the Autism Spectrum.
While autism awareness is growing, a continued effort to raise understanding and acceptance is still needed. As a parent of two on the autism spectrum, these community events are so important in making sure that everyone is accepted and understood. Only through this understanding and acceptance, will bullying and teasing stop, allowing for friendships to be made and individuals with autism to be valuable, contributing members of the community.
The thing that makes me most proud of the Walk for Autism is hearing families talk about having a safe and accepting place, and how they can find other families like them and learn from each other and celebrate with each other.
One parent shared with us, “It felt really good to see all the people there supporting those (including our son) with Autism, learning more about it and coming together as a community. It really “takes a village” to raise a child and we feel good knowing that this community cares about learning more and supporting those with Autism. We have seen the walk grow in support and excitement every year and are looking forward to next year.”
Another parent, Tanya Mendoza stated, “As a parent, coming to the Walk for Autism is a time of acceptance and understanding. Everyone there understands your child’s behavior, instead of judging. I enjoy seeing friendly faces that know the same struggles. Every year I go home with less stress than I came with. Thank you to all who volunteer their time to make this possible.”
The 4th Annual Walk for Autism was held April 28, 2018. The Walk for Autism is a day for our community to come together to show their support and to help raise autism awareness. There is no fee to participate.
Thank you so very much to Newaygo County for helping to raise autism awareness, so that we may achieve autism acceptance.
For more information about the Newaygo County Autism Community, please visit their website at www.newaygocountyautismcommunity.org
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