Around 2,000 Iowans put on their walking shoes this weekend and raised roughly $175,000 for autism research. Kristine Nirdlinger, with the group Autism Speaks , says the fundraiser in West Des Moines was one of 86 "Walk Now for Autism" events this year in the U.S. or Canada. Autism is a complex brain disorder that affects a child’s ability to communicate and is often accompanied by behavioral challenges.
There is no known cure and diagnosis of autism has increased dramatically in the last decade. Nirdlinger says autism affects one in 150 children in the U.S. The disorder affects four times as many boys as girls. The signs or symptoms of autism are wide-ranging and different from child to child.
"They may be not very verbal, they may be withdrawing from other children, they may be showing lack of eye contact," Nirdlinger said. "So, there are a lot of different symptoms and children vary on how they may exhibit them." It can also be difficult for parents to recognize the symptoms, but Nirdlinger says the Autism Speaks website can help. The site includes a "video glossary" that shows children with signs of the disorder.
"It shows a child developing at the normal rate and a child showing specific symptoms of autism, so parents can compare it with what they might be seeing (with their own child) to what we’re showing online," Nirdlinger explained. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called autism a national public health crisis and say there’s no clear cause for the disorder.