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Walk 4 Autism raises more than $8,000

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
March 31, 2012 at 11 p.m.
Updated March 30, 2012 at 10:31 p.m.

Early finishers of the Walk 4 Autism event jog the last stretch of the one and a half mile loop on Saturday at Riverside Park.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF AUTISM

Autism spectrum disorders begin before age 3 and last a person's entire life.

Not respond to their name by 12 months.

Not point at objects to show interest.

Not play "pretend" games by 18 months.

Avoid eye contact and want to be alone.

Have trouble understanding other people's feelings or talking about their own feelings.

Have delayed speech and language skills.

Repeat words or phrases over and over.

Give unrelated answers to questions.

Get upset by minor changes.

Have obsessive interests.

Flap their hands, rock their body, or spin in circles.

Have unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel.

Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Jennifer Davis knew years before her brother's autism diagnosis that something wasn't right. Alongside her mother Monica, Davis struggled to understand why her brother's developmental progression was stymied.

"He was diagnosed in his early teen years," Jennifer Davis, 25, said. "But he has a mild case. He's a slow learner, but he can take care of himself."

Arnold "A.J." Davis, 24, was diagnosed with autism at 13 years old, a developmental disorder that affects the brain's ability to develop normal social and communication skills. Arnold exhibits shyness around strangers, and reads and communicates on a second-grade level, she said.

But Arnold is much loved by his family, and lives at home with his mother.

Though he graduated from high school, completing his degree at 21 years old, Davis said it's difficult for him to hold down a job in Victoria, or find activities that will get him out of the house and active.

Discontent about the lack of activities for autistics in Victoria as well as a perceived misunderstanding of autism by the general public, Jennifer and her cousin Valerie Medina, 28, decided to organize a 1.5-mile Walk 4 Autism.

In its second year, Walk 4 Autism aimed to promote awareness of the disorder that affects one in every 88 children and to raise money for Autism Network Connection, which will be used to develop resources, such as jobs and activities for Crossroads autistics.

Last year, Walk 4 Autism raised about $10,000, Davis said.

"A lot of people don't know about autism, and we want people to know what it is," Medina said. "Most autistics are non-verbal, they act out, and people think, 'Oh my God, control your kid.' Not all of them are that way, though."

The walk commenced at Riverside Park on Saturday morning, where more than 30 teams raised money for the cause. About 20 walkers were autistic.

Monica Davis said she is proud of her daughter and niece for organizing the walk because it helps draw attention to the needs of autistics in Victoria.

"They did such a good job, I'm so proud of them," she said. "I wish there were just more of these kinds of things for adults with autism. There's nothing for him to do here. He's at home all the time."

Medina said before she and Davis started organizing the event, "We never realized how many people here have autism, or know someone with autism."

Walk 4 Autism raised more than $8,000 Saturday, Medina said.

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