A growing number of young children in the U.S. are being diagnosed with autism.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a 15 percent increase in autism nationally in 2018. in the CDC report, 1 in 59 children had a diagnosis of autism.
Autism, also known as an autism spectrum disorder, includes a range of conditions that are grouped based upon challenges within social skills, speech, behavior and nonverbal communication.
In children, indications usually appear around the age of 2 or 3. However, some developments of autism can appear as early as at 18 months. Within this age group, boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls stemming from theories about differences in genetics.
During April, designated National Autism Awareness Month, organizations across the U.S are hoping to highlight the condition, increase understanding and bring people closer together.
To shed light on autism locally, the Florida State University chapter of Autism Speaks hosted its annual celebration and walk Saturday.
The event included different organizations, food vendors, and games for children and parents to be a part of.
Kyleigh Eaton, president of the FSU Autism Speaks, said she wants parents to be able to recognize the uniqueness of their child and how they stand out.
“I hope that parents take away that it's OK for their child to be individual and unique and to celebrate the differences and who they are as a person,” said Eaton.
Through this event, the chapter plans to fundraise for research and advocacy for the disorder locally and nationally for Autism Speaks.
Autism Speaks is an organization designed to enhance lives and spread awareness about the spectrum in hopes of finding solutions.
The FSU chapter is able to partner with local agencies, nonprofit organizations, and programs to highlight autism.
At the event, Tanya Crider, regional director of the Positive Behavior Supports Corporation, said that this was her first time being part of this event.
“It brings families together and lets them know they are not alone in the struggles that they are dealing with on a day-to-day basis with autism,” said Crider.
“They can access resources that are available to them that they did not know about before and it just lets them know that community is here to support them and help them in any way they can.”
The FSU chapter of Autism Speaks hosts the celebration and walk each year and finds new ways to continue to make it special for parents and children.
This year, they were able to raise over $6,000 to help with research and bring awareness to autism through donors and participants.
Their efforts to shed light on the spectrum disorder was just another key element they wanted to showcase for Autism Awareness Month.
Betty Proctor, co-owner of Obsessions Gift, took part in the event and found a way to shed light on autism through clothing and jewelry. Proctor says the reason behind the clothing is to represent her daughter.
“The reason behind the T-shirt is my daughter. My daughter is on the autism spectrum and one of the things that we want to promote is understanding of autism,” said Proctor.
Through the business, she also has a girls group where they do arts and crafts projects and come together for a time of socializing and entrepreneurship.
Proctor said with the help of the Autism Speaks event, parents do not have to feel alone in this.
“Events like this really do help because it raises awareness and not only that it is something that is comforting for the parents because we don't get a chance to really talk to one another,” said Proctor.
When we do get a chance to talk to one another we find out that we are going through the same issues and we can help each other,” she added.