LINCOLN, Maine - Ten years ago, one child in about 350 was diagnosed with autism. Today, it’s more like 1 in 150.
That’ s not entirely bad news. The development disability, the result of a neurological disorder that effects a person’ s ability to communicate and interact, is treatable. According to the Autism Society of America, early diagnosis, which helps account for the increase, and intervention lead to “significantly improved outcomes.”
Still, to Jeff Miller, those numbers are way too high. That’ s why he was among the organizers of the second annual Ride for Autism on Sunday.
“The key is awareness,” Miller said. “We need to get more people aware of this disease and what it does.”
Escorted by state Police Sgt. Thomas Fiske, who donated his time, about 60 motorcycles left the Lincoln Wal-Mart at about 10:30 a.m. on their way down Routes 2 and 9 to the Sea Dog Brewing Co. restaurant in Bangor. Another 10 bikers joined en route. The caravan was met in several towns by local police who provided roadblocks at intersections.
The amount of money raised by the effort wasn’ t yet available on Sunday. Organized by event founder Skip Michaud of Lincoln, last year’ s event raised $1,700.
The funds raised will go to Penquis’ Autism Community Services Division to help the nonprofit social service agency pay for case management, monthly social activities, research materials and transportation costs, among other things, for area families who have autistic members, said Mary Lynn Hersey, the division’ s manager.
The events include a trip to the Beth Pancoe Pool in Bangor next month that more than 100 people have signed up for, she said. Summer camps for autistic children are another activity, she said.
The ride, and the money it generates, “especially helps people in rural areas who cannot always afford the transportation costs or get all the most up-to-date information,” said Hersey, who also participated in the ride.
The total of riders — 70 — almost doubles the total that rode last year, she said. The riders also held a spaghetti supper in Lincoln on Saturday that raised money for Penquis’ autism services.
Based in Bangor, Penquis is a social service agency that assists in preventing, reducing or eliminating problems associated with poverty. The organization primarily serves low- and moderate-income individuals in Penobscot, Piscataquis and Knox counties.
Signs of autism in infants:
Lack of or delay in understanding spoken language.
Repetitive use of language and-or motor mannerisms, such as hand-flapping, twirling objects.
Little or no eye contact.
Lack of interest in peer relationships.
Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play.
Persistent fixation on parts of objects.