In early 2007 my oldest son, Evan, was diagnosed with autism. While his mother and I both saw early signs of this possibility the realization of this was fact was an extremely difficult journey. Thankfully, we were blessed to have local programs available to us for both resources and the sympathetic ears of others who are also on this journey of raising a child diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. We enrolled him at 2 years old into an early intervention program called Early On that assisted in both Evan’s developmental delays and assist us as parents have tools to help him develop. They also gave us a list of numerous local organizations designed to help families like ours.
One of these organizations, Autism Society of West Shore, helped us create such a hope for Evan’s future that nearly 10 years later we continue to be part of the ASWS.org family.
I am happy to say that thanks to the tools that organizations like these have given us, Evan has had the opportunity to succeed. He is a warm, loving and intelligent boy making his way through each grade academically very well – and making great strides socially too. He still has his challenges, but we have very high hopes for his future.
Autism Advocate / “Race Now for Autism”
Shortly after Evan’s diagnosis and after the fear of the unknown subsided, I wanted to reach out to others that were experiencing the same things that we were. As a race driver and car owner at the time in the Mazda MX-5 Cup Championship, I had the opportunity to place a charity on the car for a few races. This turned in to a non-stop mission to promote autism awareness through motorsports and racing.
Marc Miller & Patrick Dempsey : During 2007, the Autism Speaks Mazda MX-5 Cup car competed in eight events, logging over 5,000 miles on the race track to promote autism awareness. At the pinnacle of the promotion were two featured race events where the car was piloted by actor and race car driver/enthusiast, Patrick Dempsey. Patrick did not hesitate to support this and be a wonderful friend to provide his support.
Heading into 2008 I felt it was important to find ways to give back to families and program in West Michigan. Friends would ask how they could help raise awareness for autism and the Race Now For Autism concept was born. The goal was an avenue to promote racers of ALL disciplines willing to compete in the name of autism awareness. Runners, swimmers, bikers, race drivers or a myriad of other racing mediums – it didn’t matter – as long as they were RACING for autism awareness. Provide them with a medium to promote themselves and a fund-raising effort where the proceeds will go to benefit families affected by autism spectrum disorder. For Marc and his family, this means Marc’s racecar would now be in complete www.RACENOWforAUTISM.org livery in an effort to stimulate other racers from all disciplines to help join in on the fund raising effort. The first event raised over a thousand dollars in pledges to benefit a local charity!
For me, the best way to be an advocate is to provide by children with the best resources and programs available for their development and to share my experience and stories with others that may be afraid of what the future holds for their children.
What is autism spectrum disorder?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disability; signs typically appear during early childhood and affect a person’s ability to communicate, and interact with others. ASD is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a “spectrum condition” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. There is no known single cause of autism, but increased awareness and early diagnosis/intervention and access to appropriate services/supports lead to significantly improved outcomes. Some of the behaviors associated with autism include delayed learning of language; difficulty making eye contact or holding a conversation; difficulty with executive functioning, which relates to reasoning and planning; narrow, intense interests; poor motor skills’ and sensory sensitivities. Again, a person on the spectrum might follow many of these behaviors or just a few, or many others besides. The diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder is applied based on analysis of all behaviors and their severity. (www.autism-society.org)
Facts & Figures
- About 1 percent of the world population has autism spectrum disorder. (CDC, 2014)
- Prevalence in the United States is estimated at 1 in 68 births. (CDC, 2014)
- More than 3.5 million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder. (Buescher et al., 2014)
- Prevalence of autism in U.S. children increased by 119.4 percent from 2000 (1 in 150) to 2010 (1 in 68). (CDC, 2014) Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability. (CDC, 2008)
- Prevalence has increased by 6-15 percent each year from 2002 to 2010. (Based on biennial numbers from the CDC)
- Autism services cost U.S. citizens $236-262 billion annually. (Buescher et al., 2014)
- A majority of costs in the U.S. are in adult services – $175-196 billion, compared to $61-66 billion for children. (Buescher et al., 2014)
- Cost of lifelong care can be reduced by 2/3 with early diagnosis and intervention. (Autism. 2007 Sep;11(5):453-63; The economic consequences of autistic spectrum disorder among children in a Swedish municipality. Järbrink K1.)
- 1 percent of the adult population of the United Kingdom has autism spectrum disorder. (Brugha T.S. et al., 2011)
- The U.S. cost of autism over the lifespan is about $2.4 million for a person with an intellectual disability, or $1.4 million for a person without intellectual disability. (Buescher et al., 2014)
- 35 percent of young adults (ages 19-23) with autism have not had a job or received postgraduate education after leaving high school. (Shattuck et al., 2012)
- It costs more than $8,600 extra per year to educate a student with autism. (Lavelle et al., 2014) (The average cost of educating a student is about $12,000 – NCES, 2014)
- In June 2014, only 19.3 percent of people with disabilities in the U.S. were participating in the labor force – working or seeking work. Of those, 12.9 percent were unemployed; meaning only 16.8 percent of the population with disabilities was employed. (By contrast, 69.3 percent of people without disabilities were in the labor force, and 65 percent of the population without disabilities was employed.) (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014)