Welcome to my fundraising page! I am so excited you’re here.
I will be running the 2023 TCS New York City Marathon on November 5th with Run for Autism which supports the Organization for Autism Research (OAR).
This cause is very close to my heart as many of you who know me personally know that my younger brother, Sam, has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). He is a lively and clever young man who loves to run (almost as much as I do!)
However, like many children and young adults who are diagnosed with ASD, Sam has struggled with behavioral and cognitive obstacles that have made it hard for him to regulate his emotions, pick up on social queues, and operate functionally in new environments. I am only three years older than Sam and growing up, I did not understand why he would continually throw tantrums and get in trouble in school. Sometimes this would be because he was not first in line for the school lunch in the cafeteria and he had made it his mission to be there before anyone else everyday. Other times, especially as he started to get older, he would constantly pull out his phone in class to check the scores of sports games only to get scolded and get his phone taken away for the dozenth time.
While these behaviors might sound typical of an adolescent boy who is overly competitive and likes sports, his repeatedly rash behavior and outsized reactions to something as small as not being able to draw a circle perfectly on a test suggested there was something deeper.
My parents noticed Sam had issues even as an infant. He was unable to roll over or lift his head at six months old, which suggested he had low muscle tone, a common early trait of ASD. Additionally, when he was two years old he did not have the benchmark verbal communication skills that children his age were expected to have. Moreover, he showed early signs of perseveration. At that age, he loved to go on drives with my mom, but if he knew the destination and my mom ended up taking another route, he would cry and throw tantrums! Even at that age he could memorize repeat patterns and could not handle unexpected changes to his routine or environment.
After taking him to several specialists, there was little the healthcare system at the time could provide outside the diagnoses of low frustration tolerance and low muscle tone. Sam continued to experience cognitive and behavioral delays as he got older. He would throw fits in class because he couldn’t understand reading assignments. Even though he had an impeccable memory, he would fail quizzes and tests which required reading and listening comprehension. Additionally, he fell behind in his speech patterns and his behavior was erratic, especially in school.
Finally when Sam was 10, he received a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome, which is now considered ASD. You may be wondering what exactly ASD is and why it is important. ASD is defined as a neurological and developmental disorder that affects how people interact with others, communicate, learn, and behave. Unlike other psychiatric conditions such as Alzheimer’s and ADHD, which are disorders of memory and of attention respectively, clinicians are still trying to define what exactly autism is a disorder of. These four symptoms are prevalent in all cases of ASD but at various levels which is why it is considered a “spectrum” disorder. The symptoms are as follows:
-Difficulties in social interactions including communication, interaction, and emotional reciprocity -Repetitive physical behaviors, including restricted or repetitive patterns of behavior or speech -Highly organized and detail-oriented patterns of thought, which can manifest in highly focused and fixated interests (Sam gets really fixated on sports and can react very intensely if the team he’s cheering for loses!) -Differences in how they sense and perceive the world around them, which manifests typically as being acutely sensitive to sensory input
You can learn more about recent development in autism research and how neuroscientists use brain-imaging techniques to understand ASD here: https://youtu.be/2__A_Mb0V0g?si=73OAU1tvaHhUx91E
So, why does this all matter?
ASD currently affects 75 million people worldwide, which is nearly 1% of the world’s population. Additionally, around 1 in 36 children in the U.S. has been diagnosed with autism. Many other countries around the world do not have the medical specialists or resources to deal with such a diagnosis, which suggests that the number of people worldwide affected by ASD may be much higher.
And why is it important to support autism research?
-Currently, autism is diagnosed late (~age 4 in US) leaving little time for early behavioral intervention -No approved drugs to target the core features which, for some people, might improve quality of life -Furthering a clinical understanding of human neurodiversity might improve quality of life
How can you help?
You can make a contribution to my fundraising campaign using this link: https://support.researchautism.org/NYC2023/megandrown
Every dollar I raise will advance OAR’s mission to fund research and resources that help people with autism and their families. Below are some examples of the ways that OAR uses the funds raised by the RUN FOR AUTISM team:
$10 provides a Curriculum in a Box professional development set to general education teachers. $25 provides 15 copies of A Guide to Safety to families and first responders. $100 provides the Kit for Kids peer education resource to an entire elementary or middle school. $150 provides 100 copies of a Life Journey through Autism guidebook sent to a community support group or military installation. $1,000 provides a research grant for a graduate student studying autism. $3,000 provides a scholarship for a student with autism to attend college. $40,000 fully underwrites an applied research pilot study.
If you are not yet ready to support and/or you just want to keep updated with my training, I will be sending out a weekly email in the countdown to the race over the next 10 weeks. Comment your email below and I will add you to my mailing list. My brother has been pushing me to train harder so you can keep updated on our health and fitness journey together and watch how we are improving together! I also will post updates on my tiktok which you can find here: https://www.tiktok.com/@meg_christine__
My hope is that through this platform and my fundraising campaign I can raise money AND awareness on the topic as research is still developing in the field and oftentimes resources or information on how to support children and adults with autism can be inaccessible.
I also am excited to be getting closer to my brother as we train together 🙂