By Steve Svetovich
Gary and Lynne Duncan get a lot of satisfaction working in a helping profession as rehab therapists.
But one of their biggest thrills each year is volunteering at the annual Autism Awareness Night every April in Minooka.
The 11th annual Autism Awareness Night was held Saturday, April 30, at Divine Mercy Parish Hall, Minooka.
Several hundred attended to support autism awareness.
“It is the one event of the year I would never miss,” said Gary Duncan, an occupational therapist for a Traditional Home Health, Dunmore. “It is the single most important event I attend each year. It is the most important autism support event of the year. I would never miss it. It is the one event I absolutely never miss.”
Duncan, who heads the Neighborhood Watch Group in Dunmore, is one who volunteers at events he believes in. “And I believe in this,” he said. “It is the number one fund raising event for autism in this area. It is for a great cause.”
Lynne Duncan, a speech therapist at Allied Services, Scranton, has volunteered at the annual event since its inception. “I think it’s all great,” she said. “It is a wonderful event, and I wouldn’t miss it. It’s just fabulous.”
All money raised from the event went to support autism awareness.
Autism and autism spectrum disorder are both general terms for complex disorders of brain development.
These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.
These include autistic disorder, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder and Asperger syndrome.
Autism spectrum disorder can be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention and physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances. Some persons with autism excel to a very high degree in visual skills, music, math and art. Some excel at a genius level in these areas.
Autism has its roots in early brain development. However, the most obvious signs of autism and symptoms tend to emerge between 12 and 18 months of age.
Some infants and toddlers begin to develop normally until the second year of life, but then regress.
Autism Speaks continues to fund research on effective methods for earlier diagnosis, as early intervention with proven behavioral therapies can improve outcomes.
Increasing autism awareness is a key aspect of this work and one in which our families and volunteers play an invaluable role.
Autism now affects one in 68 children, including one in 48 boys.
Autism is the fastest growing serious developmental disability in the a United States.
Autism receives less than five percent of research funding of many less prevalent childhood diseases.
Boys are nearly five times more likely than girls to have autism.
There is no medical detection or cure for autism.
There are more than two-million individuals in this country with autism. Government statistics report a 10 to 17 percent increase for the diagnosis in recent years. There is no established explanation for the increase, although improved diagnosis and environmental influences are two reasons considered.
Betsy Walsh is president of the Minooka Lions Club.
Mari Walsh is chairman of the Board of Directors of the Minooka Lions Autism Awareness Foundation. Rita Castaldi is vice chairman. Joe Castaldi is treasurer.
And Gary and Lynne Duncan continue to volunteer for something the couple really believes in.
“We feel strongly about this,” said Gary Duncan. “We support this cause all the way.”