This guest post is by Nancy Miltenberger, Chair of the, 2011 Lehigh Valley Walk.
As any parent or grandparent knows, hearing that a child you love has autism is devastating. I have heard it twice. My twin grandsons, James and Thomas are both on the spectrum. A few years ago, James was also diagnosed with leukemia. Fortunately, when the oncologists told us about his disease, they also handed us a road-map for his cure. Three years and two months later (and many spinal taps, rounds of chemo, transfusions, and more) I am thrilled to report that James is cancer-free. If James had been diagnosed with the same type of leukemia 60 years ago, his story may not have had such a happy ending. In 1950, the cure rate for acute lymphoblastic leukemia was about 4% and in 2010 it is about 94%. What a difference!
As we all know, there is no cure for autism… yet. But the model for leukemia gives me hope. I am so thankful for James’s wonderful doctors and all the funding and research that went into pediatric cancers over the last few decades. Now, we need to turn our attention to finding a cure for autism. It affects far more people than pediatric cancer, diabetes and AIDS combined. I want to do my part to see a cure for my grandchildren and others like them. That is why I Walk and why I am the chair of the 2011 Lehigh Valley Walk Now for Autism Speaks. I recently heard Dr. Geri Dawson, the Chief Science Officer of Autism Speaks, and I now have some hope for finding help for my grandsons and our family. I feel that by supporting our local Walk I am helping to fund the research that is needed to help pull my grandsons and countless others like them from the isolation that is autism, and help them to lead normal lives.