In July, I wrote a column about the founding of the West Georgia Autism Foundation.
Since then, there have been significant developments that need to be made public.
Before I continue, some of you may wonder why this column, WGAF, or autism in our community is even important.
Most families do not have autistic children. Why should anyone care?
Here are some of the reasons why we should take notice:
An estimated one out of 42 boys and one in 189 girls are diagnosed with autism in the United States. If we look at 1,000,000 people, that would be 23,000 boys and 5,300 girls. Today, autism has a direct and substantial impact not only on families, but our entire community, governmental resources, and economy.
Autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the country. Autism costs the nation over $238 billion per year, a figure expected to significantly increase in the next decade.
While there is no medical detection or known cure for autism, thousands of children have shown significant improvement resulting from early diagnosis and treatment. Those families who cannot afford treatment suffer in silence.
The WGAF was created to step up and have a major impact in west Georgia. The current counties we will serve include Coweta, Carroll, Cobb, Douglas, Haralson, Heard, Paulding, Polk and Troup. Here is an update and where we are today.
The over $10,000 of donated seed money has allowed us to move at a quicker pace.
1. Board – Our board of directors consists of diverse and talented people. We have therapists, law enforcement officers, grant writers, lawyers, experienced fundraisers, a nonprofit specialist and others who are totally committed to carrying out our three primary functions: raising money to financially support families, providing awareness about autism and encouraging acceptance through education.
2. Friends of the Foundation – This group of nationally known public figures has agreed to support, endorse, and increase awareness. While the list is growing, a couple of the friends include Retired General Gary Harrell, commander of the Black Hawk, the helicopter in the true story and movie “Black Hawk Down”; and Duane Allen, lead singer of the Oak Ridge Boys.
3. West Georgia Autism Documentary – The film production company, Felt, recently made a donation in the form of creating a documentary. The interviews focus on particular families here in our community. The film is expected to be released soon. While it is not official, it appears the name will be “West Georgia Confronts Autism.”
4. Relationship with Autism Speaks (AS) – AS is the most prominent autism organization in the country. After attending our last board meeting, AS committed to partnering with the WGAF in every way – particularly with working with lawmakers in Georgia to make our state the leader in addressing autism. Their website is www.autismspeaks.org.
5. Website – We are currently creating a website that will encompass all aspects of autism in west Georgia. The web address will be www.wgaautism.org.
6. Media assistance – Numerous newspapers, television channels and other media outlets have pledged their support in getting the WGAF positive exposure.
There are more inspiring updates, but I cannot fit them in this column.
I invite each of you to “get on board” by supporting the WGAF as we develop and make a difference. If you want to be placed on the email list, donate or want to help in any way, please contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As I have said, and now beginning to hear, with God’s direction, the WGAF will have an impact on the entire west Georgia community.
Jason Swindle is a criminal-defense attorney and college professor in Carrollton.