This guest post is by Katie Selph who is walking at the Arizona Autism Speaks Walk. You can make a donation to her walk team here. Why do you walk? Tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org
1 in 68 children in the United States is currently diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In Arizona, the rate is even higher with 1 in 64 children diagnosed with ASD.
With these staggering statistics, you would think this issue would be on everyone’s mind and a common topic of discussion. Unfortunately, it seems to me most of the time autism goes unnoticed, misunderstood and ignored.
1 in 68 – think about that for a moment. With numbers like that, you most likely know somebody, a friend, co-worker, family member or neighbor, whose life is touched by autism.
While I have been aware of autism for the past few years, I wasn’t educated on how autism affects people, the statistics and research on autism or the organizations assisting those affected by ASD. It wasn’t until I was brought into the Autism Speaks Walk Arizona committee, that autism became personal to me.
In 2015, Ken McElroy, principal of MC Companies took on the role of Walk Chair for Autism Speaks Walk Arizona in partnership with Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center (SARRC). While I was aware in my company’s role with the walk, I was not heavily involved. Then, my boss asked me to attend a committee meeting and I was sucked into the world of autism awareness, walk day planning and fundraising.
Last year one of our big projects was a crowd funding campaign called Jumpstart4Autism. The goal was to raise $250,000 for the Jumpstart program at SARRC. Jumpstart is an innovative early intervention program for children up to age 6 wo have been recently diagnosed with or are at risk for ASD.
While the crowdfunding project didn’t hit the goal, the project touched me on an emotional level and inspired me to put my all behind the walk. As part of our project, a co-worker and I went down to SARRC to tour the facility and to interview two moms in the Jumpstart program.
The mothers we met were incredibly strong, loving and committed to their children. One of the mothers brought her son Miles and we watched them play and interact. Miles was a happy, vibrant, adorable little boy. He looked like any other happy kid playing with his mom; you never would expect that he had autism.
That’s the thing about autism – it isn’t always glaring or obvious. These children don’t walk around with signs on that say “I have autism”. Their struggles are internal and they are often times misunderstood by their peers.
Meeting these women and their children made autism REAL for me. These women and their children are why I walk. I walk for my future children in the hope that they find the help, support and education they need if they are diagnosed with ASD. I walk because I am a sister, daughter, niece, granddaughter, and cousin – and there are many of those out there who are affected by autism.
Now, I invite you to walk with me and Team MCLife. This year, the Autism Speaks Walk Arizona in Partnership with SARRC takes place on Sunday October 23, 2016 at Tempe Beach Park. Register your own team, get involved and share your stories with others.