MASON CITY, Iowa - According to the CDC, 1 in 54 children are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. In boys, 1 in 34 identified with autism, while it was 1 in 144 in girls.
Throughout the month of April, Autism Awareness Month, organizations like the Clear Lake-based One Vision are spreading awareness and education of autism. On Sunday, 17 teams took to Southbridge Mall to walk and raise money for the One Vision Children's Autism Center as part of the 8th annual J. Brooks Walk-a-Block event, the first public event the organization has held since before the start of the pandemic.
This year was the first time Faith Lau has participated in the walk. Her two sons Kaiden and Orion were both diagnosed with autism within just months of each other.
"It was nice to have some answers and know where we could go. It was like, 'now what do we do, what is the next step?' When we found One Vision, it was like a godsend."
While it may seem nerve-wracking to receive the news of a diagnosis, and may feel lost trying to find answers and resources, she notes that events like Walk-a-Block and the services One Vision provides can make it easier. She's been making connections with families, knowing that she's not alone.
"When you first hear about your kids diagnosed, you feel like you're alone. When you come to something like this, you're not. You can connect with people and get to know other people, make friends and make connections."
Radio personality Jay Brooks started the walk in 2013. He's interacted and worked with friends and neighbors whose kids have autism, which got him interested in the cause and to be a core supporter of the Children's Autism Center.
"People come and walk because they maybe have a grandchild in California or Florida. They come and do it to support local."
Now that he has a grandson of his own that was recently diagnosed, it's taken on a deeper meaning to him.
"This one hits closer to home. It's not a bad thing. It's one thing that people just need to understand."
This year's fundraising goal is $20,000. To donate, click here.