Mayor Proclaims April Autism Awareness Month

by Tony Rutherford HuntingtonNews.Net Reporter
Mike Grady
Mike Grady

HUNTINGTON, WV (HNN) – Mayor Kim Wolfe proclaimed April as Autism Awareness Month at the April 11 meeting of Huntington City Council.

Michael Grady, CEO for the Autism Services Center,  said that Huntington has been ahead of the curve in this behavioral disorder since the 70s. At that time , two professors, Bill and Ruth Sullivan decided to teach at Marshall University because Huntington High School offered one of the only classrooms in the nation for children suffering from autism.

The Sullivans’ son suffered from autism, which is an often genetically based disorder of neural development characterized by impaired social interaction , communication, and repetitive behavior.

Grady recalled that the world premiere of the 1988 Oscar winning movie, “Rain Man,” occurred at the Keith Albee, partly due to the interaction of star Dustin Hoffman studying  the Sullivans’ son for development of his Academy Award winning acting performance.

“If you had to pick out one event that brought autism to the worldwide public, it was that movie,” Grady explained.  The film helped break stereotypes of the developmental disorder and the failure of agencies to accommodate autistic skills.

Huntington’s annual Rally for Autism (once known as the Autism Walk) will be April 30. “Last year we had 900 participants in the walk, ride and run. This year it will be over a thousand,” Grady said, challenging the mayor and members of city council to “put an explanation point on this proclamation” by participating in the rally.

In addition, on April 1, acting governor , Earl Ray Tomblin, signed a bill making West Virginia the 25th state to mandate that insurance companies cover behavioral therapy for children with autism.

Grady , who has worked in the field since 1985, told the audience that “the prevalence of autism was [then] one in 2,500 . The latest statistics are one in 110.”

He humbly accepted the proclamation “on behalf of parents, family members and individuals with autism.”

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