Autism walk kickoff in Homestead will include sensory-friendly play | TribLIVE.com
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Autism walk kickoff in Homestead will include sensory-friendly play

Jeff Himler
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Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
Thousands came out to participate in the 2014 Pittsburgh Walk Now for Autism Speaks Saturday, June 14, 2014 on the North Shore. Thousands came out to participate in the 2014 Pittsburgh Walk Now for Autism Speaks on Pittsburgh’s North Shore.

Autism Speaks is planning its 20th annual Pittsburgh fundraising walk this summer and will hold a kickoff event on March 24.

Registration is required to attend the kickoff event, set for 9 a.m. to noon at Dave & Buster’s at The Waterfront in Homestead.

The event will allow participants in past walks to celebrate the anniversary of the fundraising effort while family and friends of those on the autism spectrum will be able to learn about Autism Speaks, according to Amy E. Logston of the organization’s Western Pennsylvania chapter.

Attendees also will have an opportunity to register for this year’s walk, slated for 9 a.m. June 9 at Schenley Park in Pittsburgh.

Those planning to attend the kickoff can register online at act.autismspeaks.org/PGHKickoff and will receive a $10 card good for game play at Dave & Buster’s.

Because people on the autism spectrum can have heightened sensitivity to sensory stimulation, the establishment’s games will be toned down for sensory-friendly play from 9 to 11 a.m. “Lights and sounds will be turned down or turned off, so there’s not such over-stimulation,” Logston said.

There also will be coloring, face painting and a quiet space for anyone who needs to take a break from the action.

A program and lunch will follow at 11 a.m.

Those who register for the kickoff event and also sign up a team to participate in this year’s walk will be entered in a drawing for two tickets to a Pirates game, an overnight hotel stay and a $25 gift card for the Pirates team shop.

People can form a walk team or join one at AutismSpeaksWalk.org. In addition to raising awareness of autism, the Pittsburgh walk is believed to have raised more than $9.5 million over two decades.

Autism Speaks funds autism research, leads advocacy and provides resources for those on the spectrum and their families. The organization offers 40 free tool kits covering challenges from early-childhood diagnosis to education, employment and independent living.

Autism spectrum disorder refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. An estimated 1 in 59 children are on the spectrum, representing a 15 percent increase in two years.

“Families are getting their children diagnosed earlier,” Logston said. “That’s so important, so they can plan to live their best lives.

“Adults are getting diagnosed, too, as more awareness comes about.”

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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