ORLANDO, Fla. – April is Autism Awareness Month, and to support families with children on the spectrum, a state representative and an Orlando city commissioner are teaming up to connect the community with resources.
Inside the Englewood Neighborhood Center gymnasium Saturday morning you wouldn’t find a pickup basketball game. Instead, you would have found an opportunity to raise autism awareness.
“What we’re doing is bringing resources to our community. What better way than to bring it to their community where they’re comfortable?” State Rep. Daisy Morales, D-District 48, said.
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Morales partnered with District 2 Orlando City Commissioner Tony Ortiz to host the event in honor of Autism Awareness Month.
For Morales, this is personal. She said her sister has special needs, so she wanted to gather resources in one place to help families with children on the autism spectrum.
“What I’m trying to do is bring a spark of hope and not so much confusion and frustration because you know it’s not easy. They don’t know where to start,” she said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism affects an estimated 1-in-44 children in the United States.
Alex Buckles said his 10-year-old son Adam is on the spectrum.
“His unique ability is he has a great memory. I could say, ‘Tell me about the little mermaid’ and he’s like ‘Oh well dad, it’s made in 1992. It’s got a runtime of 1 hour, 41 minutes,’” Buckles said.
Buckles said he wants to help children with autism use their unique abilities to grow and eventually find jobs when they’re older. He founded his nonprofit Pathways for Autism that he hopes will one day benefit his son and others.
“He’s got that memory, so how do you leverage that ability and then map that into a role in the workforce so he can live a wonderful life that’s independent?” he said.
Morales hopes events like this will help the community learn more about autism and understand why these children come into our lives.
“They come here to give us that special gift of understanding, acceptance and a way to embrace autism,” she said.