Twenty-nine baby strollers are lined up in the lobby of the Stephen P. Clark center in Downtown Miami. Four represent the number of autism cases diagnosed in Miami-Dade in April 1991. The other 25 strollers symbolize how many cases will be diagnosed this April.
April is Autism Awareness Month, and Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz kicked off an informative special presentation about the disorder at the Stephen P. Clark Center on Monday, April 4, 2011. The ceremony is part of a Miami-Dade initiative the commissioner launched in 2009 to coincide with National Autism Awareness Month. Throughout the month of April, residents can go to the Stephen P. Clark Center's lobby and find information on autism and what they should do if they suspect their child has the disorder. There is also an artistic puzzle display representing the community coming together to find a cure for autism, and the stroller display provided by Walmart. In addition, the UM/NSU CARD Mobile Family Autism Clinic, provided by UM/NSU Center for Autism & Related Disabilities, had professional staff answering questions about autism.
According to Autism Speaks, autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that impairs communication skills and social abilities. There is no known cause or cure for autism, which is estimated to affect 1 out of every 110 children born in the United States. Autism is typically diagnosed by the age of two or three. A child with autism might exhibit signs such as having trouble relating to others, avoiding eye contact, difficulty adapting when a routine changes, and losing skills he or she once had, like saying words he or she used previously.
"As autism becomes more prevalent in our community, it's important that parents understand what the signs are and what resources are available to them to treat the disorder," said Commissioner Diaz. "Parents know their children best, and if something doesn't seem right in your child's development, early intervention is key to getting your child the help he or she needs."
Jeffrey P. Brosco, MD, PhD served as a guest speaker at the unveiling. Dr. Brosco is a professor of Clinical Pediatrics at University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and Associate Director for the Mailman Center for Child Development. Dr. Brosco's practices both general and developmental pediatrics, and conducts research on social history and public policy trends in health care for persons with developmental disabilities, including autism. His previous research includes an analysis of the history of health care for children. In 2010, he received the Outstanding Clinician Award by the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, UM-NSU CARD.
The Autism Awareness Display was made possible with assistance from Miami-Dade County, Autism Speaks, Dan Marino Foundation, Walmart (located at 8651 Northwest 13 Terrace in Doral), and Main Street Children's Dentistry & Orthodontics. Commissioner Diaz's office is working with the UM/NSU CARD Mobile Family Autism Clinic to schedule a future date where families can come for free autism screenings.
If you suspect your child has autism, visit Autism Speaks online at www.autismspeaks.org or call 888-AUTISM2 (288-4762) for help.