By Frank Lewis
One in 68 children in the U.S. live with autism. More than 3.5 million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder. Prevalence of autism in U.S. children increased by 119.4 percent from 2000 (1 in 150) to 2010 (1 in 68) according to the Centers for Disease Control in 2014. The CDC lists autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability.
On Saturday night, the Autism Project of Southern Ohio presented $1000 scholarships to four members who are entering or already in college. Recipients included Andrew Walker, Halea King, Kristyn Bell and Bobby Madden. Sponsors of the scholarships were DESCO, Jeremy Burnside Attorney-at-Law, Ryan Salmons State Farm Insurance and Fraternal Order of Police, Local 187.
“We get a lot of community support from the businesses,” Mike Payton, Autism Project of Scioto County governing board president, said. “If you look at the statistics on autism, it affects a lot of families and a lot of business owners know where we’re coming from. We have not really had a problem getting funding from any of our projects.”
This is the second year the Autism Project has given the scholarships.
“It is something that we had been kicking around for a while,” Payton said. “So we tried it last year and got pretty good results. We thought, as long as we could afford to do it, it could help them get a job down the road. We don’t have any restrictions for any particular college.”
Payton said it was a natural progression in dealing with the children as they grow up.
“A lot of those kids when we started were little,” Payton said. “Some of these folks are getting to where there are opportunities for them to get into college and, let’s face it, when you’ve got a child with special needs, it is expensive enough as it is, so we just wanted to try to do something to help out a little bit. That’s really what the driving force behind it was.”
The recipients this year were asked to write essays on how they have dealt with autism in their lives. The governing board of the Autism Project along with the board of directors presented the awards at a banquet held at the New Boston Community Center. The guest speaker was Joyce Banks, an Intervention Specialist at Portsmouth West Elementary School.
“She came in to do a training Saturday evening and talked with parents on what to expect at the IEP (Individual Educational Plan) meeting with schools,” Payton said. “We have also had attorneys come in and talk about guardian issues.”
Payton said the program raises funds in numerous ways including the “Light It Up Blue” event at McDonalds, the Autism Walk in April, a motorcycle run, the Challenger Basketball League, the Just For Fun Bowling League and even a Halloween Bash in October.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.