Do You Know a Family Affected By Autism?

With 1 in every 110 children diagnosed, chances are high that you do. And though today is World Autism Awareness Day, it’s a good time to remember that these families can use our support and understanding all year long. That can come in many forms: It might mean attending a walk, such as the ones sponsored by Autism Speaks that are taking place all spring. It might mean simply inviting a child with autism over to play, or including him or her in your own child’s birthday party. Or it might mean supporting a company that promotes the cause. Lindt USA, the chocolate makers, is one such company. Among their initiatives: For every free e-card you send from, Lindt will donate $1 to Autism Speaks.

Earlier this week, two of us here attended an awards luncheon sponsored by Lindt. Every year Lindt recognizes three Unsung Heroes—people who are making a positive, unique, and lasting impact in the lives of families affected by autism—with a trip to New York City and a $5,000 prize. (They’re pictured above, along with Lindt USA president and CEO Thomas Linemayr.) Deputy Editor Diane Debrovner and I were honored to be on the judging panel, and to meet the winners in person:

Connie Erbert (left), who lives in Wichita, Kansas, has long been a champion for families with autism. She directs the Community of Autism Resources and Education program at Heartspring, she founded a camp for children with Asperger’s Syndrome and high-functioning autism, and started autism awareness walks that have so far raised more than $120,000.

Kerri Duncan (second from left), of Springfield, Missouri, realized more than a decade ago that her community needed a school to serve children with autism—so she started one herself, opening the Rivendale Center for Autism and Institute for Learning. She recently partnered with Specialized Education Services Inc. and plans to open schools all over the country.

Bonnie Gillman (far right) lives in Tustin, California, and in 2006 started the Grandparent Autism Network after her grandson was diagnosed with autism. GAN’s mission is to help grandparents better interact with and understand their grandchildren, as well as help grandparents support their own children. Bonnie has planned 42 free events for GAN’s 800 members and serves 34 communities in California.

It was so touching to hear how these women have improved the lives of families affected by autism. To learn more about the condition, including signs and treatment, and real parents’ stories, check out our extensive coverage.

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  1. by shelly stawicki

    On April 10, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    my grandson is suspected of having asberger’s syndrome. His pediatrician suggested to my daughter to have him tested. she’s tried and tried to get her insurance company to authorize a visit to a specialized autism center to be tested, but they refuse to pay and say any therapist can diagnose him. I’m with my daughter, I would prefer a specialist in this field to test and diagnose my grandson.

    he’s socially akward, very shy, will throw up when confronted with situations that scare him. when he first went to pre-school he ran over to the corner of the room and stayed there by himself. on potty training, he is slowly getting the concept but of recent, he will take off his diaper and pee on the bed. if toys are put away neatly, he has to undo them until they are strewn all over the floor. if the door is open he has to close it.

    I love this little man with all my heart and I want nothing more for him than to live a happy and fulfilling life! The first thing is I want him tested and diagnosed so we can get the teachers in his school districts on board to give him the proper care while in school!

    signed, a loving and concerned grandma!


  2. by chris keer

    On April 10, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    my family , my x my oldest is autistic and severe self injury she also has a younger sister the oldest is 24 she lives in a group home i dont like that but i have no room right now for her im hoping to change that

  3. by Debbie Helland

    On April 10, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    My grandson Kannon has high functioning autism. He is 8yrs old. He has come so far in his social skills. He still has problems with temper, He is doing well in school. I wish for him to have friends and get invited to childrens parties etc. Loves to hang with Dad and Grandpa. He is my life. Love love him. Grandma Debbie.

  4. by Jan Loxley-Blount

    On April 11, 2011 at 1:51 am

    How do I share an autism story???

  5. by cialis generique

    On May 11, 2011 at 3:44 am

    la situation Absurde a rГ©sultГ©