PITTSBURGH (NewsRadio 1020 KDKA) – April is Autism Awareness Month. Officials say the disorder is now diagnosed in one in every 68 children, making it the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the United States.

Michael Marino, son of star quarterback Dan Marino is on the autism spectrum. He joined KDKA Radio’s Larry Richert and John Shumway to talk about how autism doesn’t have to hold people back and what the Dan Marino Foundation does for those on the spectrum.

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Michael is a spokesperson for the Foundation, which funds programs for children and younger adults with autism and other development problems.

One of the things that they do is help people with autism to independently live their lives.

Another thing the foundation does is help the parents of children and young adults on the autism spectrum. They help so, “people [can] get into the work force and find a job, make money and live independently and become a contributing person in our society.”

Michael says he was diagnosed when he was 3-years-old.

He adds his parents looked all over the county for help. He says he was lucky because they had the financial means to get the help he needed.

The Marino Foundation recently opened a facility in western Florida.

“People can come and they can get the services and the care they need in just one place,” Marino said.

He says people from all over the world come to the campus.

The foundation is teaming up with Panera Bread for the Touchdown for Autism Cookie Campaign. They will be selling the cookies at Panera Bread locations in the Pittsburgh area from April 1-7.

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The cookies are $2 and $1 from each cookie goes to The Dan Marino Foundation and to fund the creative arts program of Wesley Spectrum Services.

For more information on Wesley Spectrum visit http://www.wesleyspectrum.org/

In addition, NewsRadio 1020 KDKA will host a call center on Wednesday, April 2 from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. in the 84 Lumber Theater to recognize World Autism Awareness Day.

The center will be staffed with parents, therapists, psychologists and resource providers coordinated locally through Autism Speaks Pittsburgh. The staff will answer questions and provide resources to listeners seeking information on autism. The number for listeners to call that day is (412)-353-1135.

Listen to the KDKA Morning News with Larry Richert and John Shumway weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m. on NewsRadio 1020 KDKA.

The KDKA Afternoon News spoke with Patti McCloud who is on the Board of Directors of Autism Speaks in the Greater Pittsburgh area, about tomorrow’s World Autism Awareness Day. McCloud’s 18-year-old son is on the autism spectrum, and she believes one day there will be a cure for him.

Currentl,y her son Jordan is completely non-verbal, but he loves to hear happy music and cheering. She calls him a “happy-go-lucky” kid.

“It takes your breath away, I can remember to this day the person at Children’s hospital telling me he’s never going to drive, he’s never going to go to school, he won’t go to a regular school,” said McCloud. “And I just remember thinking, ‘how do you know?’ And I still think back to that because he’s made some huge strides, things have come a long way since he was diagnosed.”

On Saturday, June 14, Autism Speaks host their annual fundraiser Walk Now for Autism Speaks. McCloud describes that day as her favorite day of the year when she gets to walk with hundreds of thousands of her closest friends. The walk goes from Heinz field to PNC Park and back raising money to research to find a cure for autism.

“It’s just a great day, we have a lot of resources for families, a lot of the service providers will have booths, we have food and water and usually snacks donated,” said McCloud. “Just a really fun day where you don’t have to worry about someone looking at your son funny or judging you in anyway. It’s just very much a day where we celebrate our kids.”

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