(Miami-Dade County, FL) -- The lobby of the Stephen P. Clark Center in Downtown Miami has 25 strollers on display, each representing a child who will be diagnosed with autism in Miami-Dade County this month. The installation is part of a kick off, held on Tuesday, April 3, 2012, for Autism Awareness Month. Artwork and facts about autism will be shown throughout the month of April at the Stephen P. Clark Center, 111 NW 1st Street. Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz sponsored a resolution in 2009 designating April to autism awareness and education in Miami-Dade County.
Photo caption: Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz completes a mural about autism at the Autism Awareness Month kick-off event at the Stephen P. Clark Center in Downtown Miami.
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. At the Stephen P. Clark Center, a wall of artwork created by autistic children from the South Florida Autism Charter School is punctuated by facts about how prevalent the disorder is in the United States. One fact by Autism Speaks indicates that more children will be diagnosed with autism this year than AIDS, diabetes and cancer combined. However, photos of autistic youths working in paid internships, thanks to the Dan Marino Foundation, show that identification and treatment of the disorder can help them lead normal lives.
During the special presentation, several people affected by autism spoke about their experiences. One was Bryce Lucas, a young man with self-identified Asperger’s Syndrome, who is currently enrolled at Broward College where he will soon receive a degree in Liberal Arts. He participated in the Dan Marino Foundation’s Summer STEPS employment program working at Nova Southeastern University, the Fort Lauderdale Main Library, and North Broward Medical Center. Miami-Dade County Public School Board Member Raquel Regalado also shared her story raising an autistic child. Rixys Alfonso, Vice President of Corporate Relations with the Dan Marino Foundation, served as the event’s mistress of ceremony.
Event sponsors included the Dan Marino Foundation, Autism Speaks, and the South Florida Autism Charter School. Panera Bread also passed out special football-shaped cookies being sold in partnership with the Dan Marino Foundation. The exclusive football cookie that will be sold individually or by the “Marino Dozen” is part of the “Touchdown for Autism” campaign and will be available at 33 Panera bakery-cafés throughout Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties during the entire month of April. For every cookie sold, $1 will benefit the foundation’s planned Vocational College to serve teens and young adults with autism and other developmental disabilities.
“It is wonderful to see so many organizations pull together to help families recognize the signs of autism and learn how to help their children should they be diagnosed. As cases of the disorder become more prevalent, it is crucial that parents understand that while there is currently no cure, there are a number of resources in this community that can be of assistance,” said Commissioner Diaz.
For more information about autism, please visit Autism Speaks at www.autismspeaks.org or the Dan Marino Foundation at www.danmarinofoundation.org.
Photo caption: Members of the Miami-Dade Commission, Autism Speaks, Dan Marino Foundation, and other autism education supporters.
(Photos by Armando Rodriguez/Miami-Dade County)