People Take a Step Forward for Autism Awareness Month

HERMANTOWN, Minn.– One in 36 kids is affected with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Over the years autism has had a bad reputation from being a highly misunderstanding neurological condition that affects millions world-wide. 

“So autism is a spectrum. Our main goal is to raise awareness and acceptance for kids no matter where they fall on that spectrum,” said co-organizer of Autism Walks Northland, Katie Godden. “Our kids just want to be like any other kid. They want to participate in things that a typical child wants to participate in. So raising awareness and acceptance for them is our main goal.”

After 16 years of walking, Autism Walks Northland still continues its mission to raise both awareness and money for schools in the Northland and their special needs programs. 

“It feels really good to be back in person. Virtual was really difficult, but we still made it work. But being back in person that’s what it’s about,” said Godden. “Because it’s our first year [back], we’re hoping that people still come as if it was any other year.”

The money that is raised from this event goes back to schools to support children that are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Items like specialized chairs, fidgets, and electronics can help stimulate children with autism spectrum disorder and better their learning environment in schools.

“Some of our schools don’t have the budget to purchase the things that our kiddos need. For example fidgets, adaptive seating if they can’t sit in a regular chair,” said Godden. ” 100% of everything that each team raises goes right directly to that school of their choice, which is fantastic.”

People diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder can struggle socially with interactions and communication skills, while others may struggle regulating emotions, or even academically. Most children that are diagnosed with autism receive a diagnosis around the age of three. But there are many cases of people receiving their diagnosis late into their adulthood.

Other signs of autism include acute speech impediments, interest in niche topics (hyperfixations), sensory processing issues, lack of personal awareness, ect. People diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder are often misdiagnosed with OCD or ADHD among other overlapping diagnosis’.

“Because there is a wide spectrum, people who are on the autism spectrum fall between nonverbal and very independent. So we just want to raise awareness that the diagnosis doesn’t mean that you’re going to fit the bill,” said Godden. “Each person is individual and we want that to really stand out.”

In 2007, two moms started their walk around the Hermantown High School indoor track. Since then they have only seen their impact reach others that aren’t even affected by autism spectrum disorder.

“My child’s donation went to his school and they were able to buy Chromebook before they were a big thing for his whole entire class,” said Godden. ” Most people on the autism spectrum learn better with electronics.”

To get started for either diagnosing yourself or your child, contact your doctor or call the Minnesota Autism Center.

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