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Carnival provides fun as well as facts on autism

August 14, 2010|By MARIE GILBERT
  • Volunteer Kaitlyn Mades, right, helps Steven Krumbeck have some fun with shaving cream at a sensory station Saturday during a carnival at Valley Grace Brethren Church in Halfway to promote autism awareness. The event also showcased resources available for kids like Steven.
By Yvette May, Staff Photographer

HALFWAY -- Gretchen Maylor said her nephew wasn't your typical baby.

There was no babbling, no eye contact or social interaction.

He was autistic.

"You weren't sure if he even recognized that you were in the room," Maylor said. "You might as well be a piece of furniture."

Today, the 7-year-old talks and smiles and brings joyful tears to his family's eyes.

"We never thought we would see such an improvement," Maylor said. "Life can still be challenging. But we have so much hope."

The Hagerstown woman shared her story Saturday morning while attending a carnival intended to promote autism awareness.

The event was held at Valley Grace Brethren Church and included games, food and information booths with representatives from area community organizations.

People attending the carnival were encouraged to drop their loose change into collection jars set up in the church's parking lot.

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Proceeds will benefit the Star Equestrian Center, said Mary Bowling, organizer of the event.

Bowling said this is the first year for the carnival.

"I felt God had laid it upon me to do something for children and adults with disabilities," she said.

Bowling said she chose this particular disorder because "my son has autism, along with many other disabilities, including ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) and Tourette's syndrome."

"I have my hands full," she said. "But my church has been a blessing. They have welcomed me and my family with open arms. This event is a way to give back to the community and to bring people here to see that our church is very welcoming."

Bowling said she hoped the carnival would raise about $1,000.

"We have a good crowd and perfect weather, so I'm very, very happy," she said.

Bowling said she plans on holding a fundraiser every year.

"At least, that's my goal," she said. "It might once again benefit Star or it could be another organization. The idea is to keep funds here in Washington County that will benefit children and adults with disabilities."

According to the Autism Society of America (ASA), autism is a complex, lifelong developmental disability that affects the functioning of the brain. Individuals with autism may demonstrate difficulty with communication, sensory processing, social interaction and behavior.

Each individual's collection of symptoms is unique and severity can range from mild to severe. There is no cure. However, the ASA says, with early diagnosis, proper intervention and appropriate services, people with autism can lead productive lives.

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