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Raising autism awareness

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By John Overby

There is no known single cause of autism.

The Autism Society’s website, however, says that there are ways to help benefit families dealing with autism, including something as simple as increased awareness.

With April serving as Autism Awareness Month, no time is like the present when it comes to becoming more informed about autism, according to Melody McClain, the mother of an autistic son and a member of the Washington County Autism Group of Support (WAGS).

“There is a lot of education to be had,” McClain said.

She says that arming oneself with knowledge is the best way to learn how to interact with an autistic child. For her, doing this is not only a positive for those getting educated; it’s also a great way for an autistic child to become better socialized.

“Education is the key for people to not be scared of the kids,” McClain said. “People became naturally more reserved, more standoffish when confronted with (someone who is autistic).

The number of autism cases at birth has steadily risen in recent years, with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention citing that their reports concluded that it occurs in one in every 68 births in the United States (and one in 54 boys).

The Autism Society estimates that the lifetime cost of caring for a child with autism “ranges from $3.5 million to $5 million.”

With these numbers only expected to grow in the future, McClain says that one of WAGS’ biggest initiatives is to help spread awareness across the county.

The group’s annual Autism Fair and Walk brings this effort to the forefront of Washington County each April.

This year’s event, the fifth installment, will take place on April 26 from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. at River of Life Church.

The fair is a free-of-charge event with activities ranging from “bouncy houses to a woodshop.”

But most importantly, McClain said that the event is a “perfect opportunity” for families to learn more about autism and what options for therapy exist.

“To have a group in your hometown and an event like that to help spread awareness,” McClain said, “it truly is a blessing.”