11th Annual Autism Walk and Expo at Central York High

John Joyce
  • Autism Walk and Expo is in its 11th year. Organizers expect a large turnout Saturday at Central York High School.
  • There is no fee to register, donations are welcome, and all of the money raised goes to assist local families, organizers said.

Registration remains open for the 11th annual Autism Walk and Expo, scheduled for Saturday at Central York High School.

In 2015, more than 2,500 supporters and sponsors attended the event to raise awareness and funds for York families living with autism. This year's event is expected to be just as big, organizers said.

A big draw is the flexibility the event offers — it's an all-day event from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and supporters can show up any time — and walkers are not limited to or required to complete any specific distances.

"It's not a measured walk," Easter Seals development specialist Ashley Beshore said.

Easter Seals Western and Central Pennsylvania and Autism York coordinate the annual event each year. Both agencies work with area families and with those afflicted with disabilities, Beshore said. Autism York, of course, works with individuals who are on the autism spectrum and their families, while Easter Seals works with people with all sorts of disabilities, including autism.

"A lot of our clients are on the autism spectrum," she said.

What is autism: According to AutismSpeaks.org, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are common terms for a brain development disorder with wide-ranging symptoms. Degrees vary in which social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication and repetitive behaviors present themselves.

ASD can be associated with intellectual disabilities, the website said. But in many cases, people with autism can excel in music, math and art.

People diagnosed with autism often are placed on a scale, otherwise known as the spectrum, according to their diagnosis.

"Some children with autism can struggle with social skills," Beshore said. "Some families are affected to the point their child is nonverbal."

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 68 children in this country are identified as "on the spectrum," and the diagnosis is more prevalent in boys. Statistics cited by AutismSpeaks as coming from the CDC said 1 in 49 boys will fall on the spectrum, versus 1 in 189 girls. The numbers have increased 10 times over what they were 40 years ago, the website said. The reasons for the increase remain unclear.

Expo: The walk and expo are meant to be a fun outing for the community, with attractions the whole family can enjoy, from food trucks and a family fun area with face painting and balloon animals to bouncy houses and a crafts area.

All the while, on the indoor track on the second floor of Central York High, registered families can walk for as long as they want to, either a lap or 5 miles, it's up to them, Beshore said.

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"There is no fee to register. People can donate if they want to, either to a general fund or, if they know someone with autism, they can donate to a specific family," she said.

Impact local: All the proceeds go to York-based families.

"All of the money raised stays local," Beshore said. "And it helps us to better support the families that have children who are on the spectrum."

Autism York offers several programs to support families with autism, including support groups for caregivers, social outings for the children, educational seminars about autism and related issues and information for the newly diagnosed.

To register for the walk, or to donate, visit www.autismyork.com.

— Reach John Joyce at jjoyce2@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter @JohnJoyceYD.