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Calls to Action

Children With Autism Affected By Katrina Finding Help Through Autism Organizations

Autism Community Rallies Together To Form AutismCares

BOISE, IDAHO, September 8, 2005 -- More than 10 national autism leadership organizations have come together to form AutismCares, a nationwide disaster relief effort that will potentially assist thousands of Katrina families living with autism.

To address the most immediate needs, "AutismCares -- Katrina" is coordinating support for the unique needs of families affected by autism through facilitating temporary / permanent relocation support, mobilizing specialty assistance teams and providing autism-conscious supplies directly to these families and the professionals caring for them.

"The catastrophic impact of Hurricane Katrina on families affected by autism exceeds the need for basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter. With the loss of order and the chaos surrounding this disaster, children and adults affected by autism are experiencing a pain that is nearly indescribable," said Mark Roithmayr, president of Autism Speaks, which is serving in a leadership role in AutismCares. "The autism community has always rallied to take action and to care for one another. AutismCares is yet another supreme and valiant effort to ensure that families get the care and basic services they so desperately need."

Autism is one of the fastest growing, most prevalent childhood disorders in the United States, affecting as many as one in every 166. Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that interferes with normal development in language, intuitive thought, social interaction and an ability to connect with a person's surroundings. Approximately half of all children with autism are unable to communicate their needs using spoken words. Most are unable to accommodate for changes in their daily routines. Associated problems include hyperactivity, self-injurious behavior, and sleeplessness.

Order and consistently administered therapeutic interventions are critical to the affected child's and family's well being. According to Katrina victim, Sheila L. Ealey, her six-year-old son has regressed significantly since Katrina hit. "Temple was receiving extensive behavioral and biomedical therapies and was doing so well. He was mainstreamed with an aide half day in a regular kindergarten with intensive services in the afternoon. He is now flapping, stimming, banging his head, hitting me, crying and making strange noises. It's so sad to see all of the work that has gone into the last four years for him leave within a week of being without therapy and his familiar surroundings."

To address long-term needs, AutismCares will advocate and implement proactive rehabilitation and assistance programs in an effort to help these families begin to rebuild their lives. AutismCares effort will be collaborating with officials from relief agencies including the American Red Cross and Salvation Army.

The following links have been established:

AutismCares Web Site -- Objectives of the initiative, partners of the coalition, newsroom with contact information.

Victim's Assistance -- Families dealing with autism needing help (coordinated within Unlocking Autism).

In-kind Donations -- May include transportation, accommodations in a home, therapy, respite, or products for care packages. All requests will be followed up by an advocate.

Specialty team volunteers -- Possibly go down to Katrina-affected areas if needed.

Donations -- Victim's Assistance - Families dealing with autism needing help (coordinated within Unlocking Autism).

"We are so lost as a family," Ealey said . "I grew up in New Orleans, raised an older daughter there and now am raising my three youngest ones. I had dedicated the last two years to developing and financing a school for autistic children, which ironically was to begin the day Katrina stormed through. My heart is broken. My husband and I have felt very alone as we desperately began looking to relocate our family permanently. I am grateful for the kindness being offered through AutismCares."

Autism leadership organizations participating in the relief effort through AutismCares include:

Autism Society of America (ASA)

Autism Speaks

The New Jersey Center for Outreach and Services for the Autism Community (COSAC)

Cure Autism Now (CAN)

The Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation

First Signs

The National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR)

Organization for Autism Research (OAR)

Princeton Autism Technology (PAT)

The Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center (SARRC)

TalkAutism

Unlocking Autism

For additional press coverage of kids with autism and Katrina, click here.