Champions of Autism: Brothers speak for those who canít speak for themselves
March 31st, 2008
Autism Awareness Rally
April 4, noon
Location Change: Galt House East, Fourth Street at the river, Ballroom C, second floor.
Admission is free.
Brothers Cameron and Jordan Blackwell share a love of musical instruments, an interest in writing and a common mission — to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves.
Together, they work hard to dispel myths about autism spectrum disorders which impair a person’s ability to communicate and relate to others. The boys have made many presentations about autism to local and national audiences and are scheduled to speak at the University of Louisville Autism Awareness Rally.
Cameron and Jordan aren’t like most autism advocates though. They have no training, just personal experience. Cameron, 16, has Asperger Syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism. It’s sometimes hard for him to understand social interactions. He occasionally obsesses about school work and is sensitive to noises and other sensory distractions.
Autism affects nine-year-old Jordan differently. When he was first diagnosed, he didn’t laugh or cry and he didn’t walk until he was two years old. Specialists said he might never be able to communicate with others.
Both brothers have defied expectations, largely because of the “sheer determination of their parents who made sure trained professionals implemented appropriate supports that help them be independent and productive,” said Rebecca Grau, Kentucky Autism Training Center, a program housed in the UofL College of Education and Human Development.
A 10th grader who is on course for an honors diploma, Cameron plays the horn in his school’s marching band and is an active Boy Scout working on his Eagle Scout rank.
Jordan is a fourth grader in an inclusionary classroom who studies advanced math. He’s a Cub Scout, plays golf and considers himself a “fantasy football expert.” He, like his brother, is determined to pass along his message about autism.
“Autism just means my brain works a little different,” Jordan explained.
“I want people to know that people with autism can be successful. It takes some work and takes some growth but they can be successful,” Cameron added.
Champions of Autism Rally
Cameron and Jordan will tell their stories at the April 4 Autism Awareness Rally to be held at noon on the Belvedere. Rhonda Hedges, principal of the Binet School, Peter Tanguay, MD, UofL’s Spafford Ackerly Endowed Professor (Emeritus) of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and others will join them. WHAS personality Terry Meiners and former UofL NCAA champ Darrell Griffith will preside over the event.
“April is Autism Awareness Month and we want to spend April 4 celebrating the champions of autism, people like Cameron and Jordan who are opening doors for others with autism spectrum disorders,” said UofL President James Ramsey.
“We also want to recognize those professionals who provide the supports children with autism need to succeed. Many of those folks have professional homes at UofL. We have the educators who train teachers and parents to work with these children. Our doctors and therapists provide diagnosis, therapy, treatment and family support. Researchers from several disciplines are working to solve the autism puzzle. As far as autism care goes, you could say, ‘It’s happening here at UofL’,” Ramsey said.
Early intervention for children with autism is vital for the development of social and communication skills required for future independence. It also decreases the cost of care of an individual with autism, estimated to be as high as $4 million over a lifetime.
Community SupportThe community is invited to cheer on these champions of autism and support autism services at UofL. Autism Awareness T-shirts will be sold at the rally for $10. Proceeds will go to UofL autism services.
For more information about the rally, e-mail Lori Wilson.