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A Day at the Races

This post is by Ann Gibbons, autism mom and executive director, Autism Speaks National Capital Area


On Wednesday, October 18th we were invited to visit Laurel Race Track in Laurel, Maryland to meet with the jockeys in their dressing room before the day's races. We went with "Diamond Boy" Luis, the popular drive-time DJ on WLZL-FM 107.9 Radio El Zol , a CBS Radio station, in Washington, DC. Luis has chosen Autism Speaks as his charity this fall and many of the jockeys, his loyal listeners, wanted to help.

AS: Luis, how did you get Laurel Race Track involved?
Luis: Daniel here is a long time listener of my program. He called and offered to have the jockeys donate a portion of their fees from last Saturday's race. The jockeys support many charitable causes, especially those related to children.

AS: Do you know anyone with autism?
Luis: One of my colleagues at El Zol has a son with autism and I see what they go through every day. I also met your son at the walk kickoff; he's a trip, man, a good guy.

AS: Are you receiving a lot of donations our walk team for the November 3rd Washington DC Walk Now for Autism Speaks, Team Diamond Boy?
Luis: In addition to today's very generous donation from the Jockey Charity Fund, I have a public event every Saturday at various locations around the DC metropolitan area where people can join my walk team, receive a Team Diamond Boy tshirt, or just make donations.

AS: Yes, we are very happy to be here today. I have to say, it's the first time I've received a generous donation from a man in a towel, but I am grateful the jockeys made time to see us as they prepare for today's races.
On the serious side, however, the Centers for Disease Control tell us the average age of diagnosis is age two. As you speak to your listeners on the air and at these events, what are they telling you about autism in their community? What do they need? how can we make their loved ones' lives easier?

Luis: A lot of people in the Latino community don't know much about autism. We are basically just trying to get the word out. I am having special guests call into my program over the month of October to educate all of us about the facts of autism, early intervention, and how to help.

AS: On Saturday, November 3rd you will be on stage on the National Mall with us and 10,000 of your old and new friends. What do you hope to accomplish by the end of that day?

Luis: I want us to speak with one strong voice to the DC community, in every language, that we are a family, a community, and we are in this together.

Reducing the Age of Early Detection and Improving Access to Intervention

The CDC estimated that 1 in 88 children are afflicted by an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), such as Asperger syndrome and childhood disintegrative disorder. The center noted that the findings mark a 23 percent increase since its last report in 2009 and a 78 percent increase since the first report in 2007. The CDC findings found that the largest increases in autism rates over time were among Latino children at 110 percent, followed by black children at 91 percent. The original study states that "with no clearly documented differences between these groups in known risk factors for ASDs, disparities in prevalence estimates suggest underascertainment among Hispanic and non-Hispanic black children."

"We suspect that some of this increase is due to greater awareness and better identification among these groups," the CDC states on its web site. "However, this finding explains only part of the increase over time, as more children are being identified in all groups."

In addition, studies have indicated that the average of diagnosis is much later in Latino children than white children.

"We know early diagnosis matters, but early diagnosis without access to treatment means nothing," said Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D., Autism Speaks chief science officer. "A majority of children don't get the treatment and services they need and deserve. We have to address all of this as we move forward."

Autism Speaks seeks to reduce the average age of diagnosis and increase access to high-quality early intervention for all children on the autism spectrum. To learn more, visit here.

Resources in Spanish

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Questions? Contactat Autism Speaks Family Services en Español 888-772-9050, o

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.