Balloon launch event raises autism awareness

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SOUTH JORDAN, Utah – People came together on Saturday to walk with blue balloons aloft in recognition of those who suffer from autism--as well as their friends and family.

The group Autism Speaks was at Skye Park for their third annual Autism Balloon Launch, which is an event designed to draw attention to a problem that hits particularly hard in Utah. Jenny Gunnel has a child with autism, and she said the group offers support.

“We all understand each other,” she said. “We know what each other are going through.”

On the national level, Autism Spectrum Disorders are diagnosed in one out of every 88 children, and boys are more likely to be diagnosed than girls. In Utah however, that number jumps to one child in 47. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call autism a public health crisis—a crisis where the cause and cure remain unknown.

The mission of Autism Speaks is to change the future of those who struggle with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Each local or state group helps raise funds for research as well as works to increase public awareness of the disorders and their effects on those diagnosed as well as those close to them.

Gunnel said they are preparing for the future.

“We've got to start planning right now,” she said. “What is going to happen to all these kids and even adults in the future? We're going to need a lot of programs.”

Autism Speaks uses a missing puzzle piece logo for identification—a piece of the puzzle the grassroots organization is working hard to find.

“Any bit of awareness we can spread around helps us,” Gunnel said.

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