Champaign-Urbana Autism Network sponsors first walk during awareness month

Despite the rainy conditions, residents of Champaign-Urbana and University students participated Sunday in the first Autism Walk, held at Parkland College. The Champaign-Urbana Autism Network sponsored the event.

The organization continues its work throughout the year, interacting with parents, volunteers and professionals, to educate and spread awareness of autism within the community.

“It’s important for families with children with autism to have a good support network,” said Angie Buford, C-U Autism Network member.

The event included a fair before the walk that featured face painting, balloon animal making and a moon bounce, as well as food and music.

“This took us a year to plan, but it was worth it,” said Joelle Walden, member of the autism network and Urbana resident. “April is Autism Awareness Month, so we wanted to do something to bring awareness of the incidence of autism.”

Austism Awareness Month is sponsored by the Autism Society of America and allows communities to focus on promoting support and services relating to the condition.

Marina Antoline is a parent volunteer with the group who helped out at Sunday’s event.

“At the C-U Network, we serve as a support and activist group for this big issue that is often overlooked,” Antoline said.

Antoline also serves as the parent representative on the board of the Autism Program, a University student initiative that allows students the opportunity to support and discuss autism.

She said the group meets on campus once a month for nine months out of the year to discuss issues relating to autism as well as to support those affected by it.

Many University students also attended the walk in an effort support the cause.

“My sorority’s philanthropy is (for) autism, so I thought it would be cool to come,” said Megha Patel, freshman in LAS. “A lot of people don’t realize how big of a deal it is, so we need to spread awareness.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Autism Spectrum Disorders can be detected before the age of 3.

These disorders are developmental disabilities that impair communication and social interaction; however, the disorders vary within children. Around one in 150 8-year-old children has autism within the United States, according to the CDC.

“We needed to bring more awareness of autism to Champaign,” Buford said. “Autism is in everyone’s life, and this event gives us a way of learning about it while having fun.”