ABILENE, Texas - The official logo for Autism Speaks is a puzzle piece because autism is the missing piece parents and researchers are trying so hard to find. That's why agencies all over Taylor County came together to raise awareness about autism and offer hope.
The 10th Annual Autism Extravaganza was at the Hunter Welcome Center on the campus of Abilene Christian University.
The event is presented by the Region 14 Education Service Center, along with community partners.
The workshop is about many things, but mainly, encouragement.
"As parents, nobody wants to feel alone and sometimes they do feel isolated," said Lisa White of the Region 14 Education Service Center. "We just want to provide a support system and let people know that there's a lot in our community to help."
Having a child who has autism can be overwhelming. Jessica Nelson, whose son, Clay, was diagnosed when he was two-years-old, offered this advice to other parents:
"Take a deep breath," Nelson said. "You know, Rome wasn't built in a day. Take a step back, look at things and find groups, find people you can speak with."
That's exactly what Nelson does with her tattoo: a blue puzzle piece located on the top of her left foot.
She said when people see it, they ask her if she's found her missing puzzle piece.
"And then that way, I'm able to advocate and talk about it," Nelson said.
And perhaps the most compelling question she gets when people see it: "How old is yours?"
Nelson said she believes God gives parents children with special needs as a blessing.
"He gave you this child for a reason and just do what you can and advocate for them and really, you're their voice," she said.
The Austism Extravaganza is the kickoff event for the Greater Abilene Walk Now for Autism Speaks walk, scheduled for Saturday, April 26 at the Abilene Zoo.
The walk is the most vital source of funding for autism research.
To learn more about the walk and to pre-register, click here.
If you think your child may have autism, here are some steps you can take to get a proper diagnosis:
1. Talk to your pediatrician or primary care physician.
2. Check out online resources like this one.
3. If your child is school-aged, you can contact his or her school and request an assessment.