Autism Speaks is the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization. On Tuesday, April 5, 2016, the Calvert Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) hosted a number of parents of children diagnosed as Autistic.
The organization is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism. It is also about increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders and advocating for the needs of individuals and their families. Autism Speaks was founded by Suzanne and Bob Wright, grandparents of a child with autism, in February 2005. Mr. Wright was the former vice chairman of General Electric and chief executive officer of NBC and NBC Universal. Since its inception, the organization has committed over $180 million to research and developing innovative resources for families.
Autism is a complex brain disorder that often inhibits a person’s ability to communicate, respond to surroundings, repetitive behavior, and form relationships with others. First identified more than 50 years ago, it affects persons of every ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic background. Autism and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. They include autistic disorder, Rhett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder (PDD-NOS), and Asperger syndrome. It can also be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention, as well as physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances. Some persons with ASD excel in visual skills, music, math and art.
Autism affects 1 in 88 children and 1 in 54 boys. It is the fastest growing serious developmental disability in the United States and costs a family more than $50,000 annually. There is no medical detection or cure for autism. The total National Institutes of Health budget is $30.5 billion. Of this, only $169 million or .06% goes directly to autism research. In Calvert County schools alone, there are 186 students receiving special education classes and this does not take into account, those who have ASD but are able to attend regular classes. In Calvert County Public Schools, 188 students have autism.
Nationwide, few insurance companies or other employee benefit plans cover autism therapies. Most designate autism as a diagnostic exclusion. Autism Votes, an iniative of Autism Speaks, is working to change state insurance laws to cover the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders.
Light It Up Blue Autism Speaks, through the National Capital Area Chapter, is providing resources to the District of Columbia, Virginia, and Maryland, including Calvert County, through its “Light It Up Blue” events during April, and Sneade’s Ace hardware will help you with blue light bulbs. Its Volunteer Outreach Ambassadors program represents Autism Speaks in their community by providing information and referrals to families, service providers and others. This month, the Drum Point Lighthouse is lit up blue.
The BOCC proclaimed the month of April 2013 as Autism Awareness Month in Calvert County and commended all who are committed to finding a cure and urged all citizens to join in increasing awareness and understanding of autism and to offer compassion to those affected by the disorder.
Margit Miller / Calvert Beacon