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Thousands take steps to fight autism

3:11 PM, May 22, 2011   |    comments
  • 6-year-old Solomon was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome at the age of 3. He took part in the Georgia Walk Now for Autism Speaks with his family.
  • The 5th Annual Georgia Walk Now for Autism Speaks in downtown Atlanta.
  • Bernie Marcus, founder of the Marcus Autism Center, cheers on the crowd at the Georgia Walk Now for Autism Speaks.
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ATLANTA -- The push for more research and awareness took a big step forward on Sunday with the 5th annual Georgia Walk Now for Autism Speaks.

About 12,000 people turned out in downtown Atlanta to raise a total of more than $500,000.

For every team in the crowd, there was a story of struggle.

"These children don't have cures," said Treesha Jackson of Decatur. "There's no cause, there's no rhyme or reason for this diagnosis."

Jackson created a team called "King Solomon's Court" for her son Solomon, who was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome when he was three years old.

"He taught himself how to read at three, but at six, he still can't put his clothes on the right way. There's nothing typical about this," she said.

There is so much that families don't know about autism, and yet there is progress.

Experts can now diagnose children earlier, as early 12 months old. Treatment programs are working, but they're expensive.

"We need a tremendous amount of money to treat children who don't have access to treatment today," said Bernie Marcus, founder of the Marcus Autism Center. "Even at Marcus, we took care of almost 5,000 people this year, and it's just the tip of the iceberg."

In fact, autism affects as many as one in 98 children in Georgia, a rate higher than the national average.

It's a big reason some parents are pushing for insurance reform.

"In Georgia, I'd like to see laws passed that require insurance companies to cover autism as a diagnosis and the services that are related to autism," said Kimberly Dick, chairwoman of this year's walk. Dick has a son with autism.

11Alive's Donna Lowry served as the honorary chairwoman of the walk. She led a group of Girl Scouts along the 2-mile route through downtown Atlanta.



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