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Some 5,000 people are expected to gather at San Jose State University on Sun., April 14, to raise awareness and funds for autism research at the 10th annual Bay Area Autism Speaks Walk. Bay Area Parent is a local of the event.
Autism Speaks is a national nonprofit dedicated to providing advocacy and support for people with autism and their families, as well as advancing research into autism’s causes and seeking better interventions. Its largest fundraising event is the Autism Speaks Walk, which takes place across the nation. Last year’s Bay Area Walk raised around $200,000, and organizers are hoping this year’s will bring in more than $260,000. To date, Autism Speaks has funded nearly $150 million, primarily in scientific grants, leveraging additional public funding.
Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, affects an estimated 1 in 59 children in the United States, a 15 percent increase over two years, and more than 70 million people worldwide, according to Autism Speaks. Autism covers a range of conditions including challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. Around one-third of people with autism are nonverbal, and nearly half tend to wander or bolt from safety. People with autism also may suffer from other medical issues including gastrointestinal disorders, seizures and sleep disturbances.
In addition to raising funds, the sensory-friendly walk is also an opportunity for participants to interact with service providers and others at a resource fair, and for people with autism and their family members to come together and support each other.
"It’s really a community gathering for parents, children and transitional adults to come together," says Julie Whitehouse, Autism Speaks’ senior regional manager for Northern California. "They come from far and wide to be with people who experience the same thing they do on a day-to-day basis."
To keep participants safe, the walks are always held in enclosed areas. Participants, who can raise funds as individuals or teams, "can walk one loop or as many as they like," Whitehouse says.
In addition to resources provided on site, Autism Speaks also offers a wealth of information on its website at autismspeaks.org. Among the offerings are free "tool kits" providing a variety of resources and advice on topics from what to do in the 100 days after a new diagnosis to how handle dentist visits to helping your child with autism transition from adolescence to adulthood.
Autism Speaks also has an Autism Response Team available to answer questions and help find autism services and support. It can be reached toll-free at 888-288-4762 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Bay Area Autism Speaks Walk will take place April 14 on the San Jose State University football practice field on S. 10th Street, with registration starting at 9 a.m., followed by opening ceremonies and the walk at 10 a.m. The resource fair will run until 1 p.m. For more information and registration, visit autismspeakswalk.org. A similar event will be held at Oracle Park in San Francisco in the fall.
Janine DeFao is an associate editor at Bay Area Parent
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