A walk for autism may occur in different cities and it may be sponsored by different organizations, but the most recognized autism walk is through Autism Speaks.
What Is a Walk for Autism?
An autism walk is an event that raises funds and awareness about autistic disorders. Participants raise money by getting sponsors who donate to the cause.
Walk FAR for NAAR
Many people who have been involved with autism for many years may remember Walk FAR for NAAR. The walks for autism research for the National Alliance for Autism Research raised funds for researching possible causes, cures and treatments for the pervasive developmental disorders. This organization focused on science with biomedical research as one of the major aspects of the program. The NAAR has merged with the massive organization, Autism Speaks.
Perhaps the most prominent of the walks are organized by Autism Speaks. Walks organized across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom raise money for this organization. The Walk Now for Autism Speaks has a website on which people can register, donate or volunteer for the fundraisers. There is a "Support a Walker" section for visitors who know someone participating in a walk.
Funds help Autism Speaks to:
- Biomedical research
- News and press releases
- Guide to local resources
Autism Speaks does not provide services nor does it make referrals for any specific treatments or programs. The organization provides general information and its focus is connecting people to resources, funding research and raising awareness.
Not all walks are sponsored at the national level, so don't discount local groups. While raising money and awareness across the board is important, many small organizations sponsoring walks for autistic disorders work directly with families affected by autism. People who are directly involved with autism on a daily basis may want to check with local groups about donations and fundraisers. Many of these organizations are in dire need of support. Some of these organizations provide:
- Guidance for newly diagnosed
- Lending libraries
- Local resources
- Personalized support
- Support groups
Where Does the Money Go
When a person donates to local organizations, the funds go directly to struggling programs in the community. Research is important but helping people get the services they need is critical. When deciding which walks to participate in, consider contacting local organizations for information about what fundraisers are being held in a specific area. Some organizations offer statewide services while others are concentrated to a certain city, county or region. Find local organizations by searching the AutismSpeaks database. This site organizes local resources by state for quick and easy reference. On this site, you can learn about:
- Participating in a walk
- The options available to people participating in autism walks
- Making donations directly to the organization
- Organizing a group to walk
- Joining a local agency in the walk
- Support inga specific walker
Participating in a Walk
Many groups create t-shirts for their walking teams. Some choose bright colors to make it easy for others to find them in the large crowd. While many people with autism have difficulty with this type of event, they are integral to the walks and are always encouraged to come. When taking children or adults with autism on a walk, families can:
- Create a schedule of the event
- Take the person or child with autism on practice walks several times before the event
- Bring water and snacks
- Use headphones or earpods playing music to lessen the auditory input
- Use visual aids and PECS
- Bring blowing bubbles or other fun activity
- Use a reward system to encourage finishing the walk
It is always helpful to have a crisis management plan in order. A designated person can take the autistic walker back to the vehicle if the event becomes too overwhelming. Keep in mind that others participating in the walk are quite familiar with tantrums and behavior problems.
Unify for a Cause
People have many different reasons for participating in a walk for autism. Ideally, this type of activity brings people together no matter what their beliefs about the causes of autism or finding a cure for autistic disorders are. Walks raise money and they raise awareness. Hopefully, they can also help people with different belies about the spectrum to come together in unified support for this population.