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Autism advocates: Be a hero for kids, take a walk

Advocates worldwide use blue as a symbol for autism awareness

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(AUTISM SPEAKS)

MIAMI-DADE, Fla. – It has been a decade since Bob and Suzanne Wright's activism began, after their grandson Christian, now 13, was diagnosed with autism, an incurable disability.

Thanks to their advocacy work, Florida is one of 38 states that require insurance companies to provide coverage for the treatment of autism spectrum disorder, a group of developmental disorders that can cause social, communication and behavioral challenges.

Wright and other advocates say there is much more to be done. One in every 68 children is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in the United States every year, according to the most recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control statistics.

"The numbers are overwhelming," the grandfather said during a meeting with a lawmaker that was shown in the "Sounding The Alarm" documentary.

JOIN ACTIVISTS

WHAT: Walk Now For Autism Speaks

WHEN: Registration opens at 8 a.m. The walk begins at 10 a.m.,  Sunday, April 19

WHERE: Doral Central Park, 3000 NW 87th Ave.

DONATIONS: Cash only. Parking is $10. T-shirt provided with $150 donation.

The grandparents co-founded Autism Speaks, a worldwide advocacy organization, in 2005. The movement uses the color blue, because autism affects both girls and boys. This year the organization's Miami chapter will host their annual fundraiser Sunday, in West Miami-Dade's Doral neighborhood.

Organizers said they were expecting at least 28,000 to walk two miles and gather for food and fun. The event is meant to raise both funds and awareness on what the organization describes as an epidemic that the country is not responding to fast enough.

MORE TO KNOW:

GUIDE FOR PARENTS: Download an Autism Speaks tool kit

HOW YOU CAN HELP: Expanding early access to care

Autism is a treatable condition -- especially when children are diagnosed early. CDC researchers report the average diagnosis happens between the ages of 4 and 5, but it can be diagnosed as early as 24 months. Studies show African-American and Hispanic children are being diagnosed much later. 

Families struggling with autism need a cure. It costs $3.2 million to take care of a patient with autism over his or her lifetime, a 2006 Harvard study estimated. And Autism Speaks reports having contributed more than $525 million to research and education over the past decade.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Click here to visit the event's website, email miami@autismspeaks.org or call 786-456-8921. Donations can also be mailed to Autism Speaks, 5805 Blue Lagoon Dr., Suite 170, Miami, FL 33126.

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