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      Mayors sign pledge to promote autism awareness

      NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - One in every 68 children arediagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder according to the latest estimatesfor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released last week.

      April is also Autism Awareness Month and mayors fromCharleston and North Charleston signed their proclamations supporting autismawareness in their cities. The day was capped off with a town hall meeting inWest Ashley to help families living with autism.

      The town hall is a way for families in the Lowcountry tofind out what resources are available to them and to discuss why so manychildren are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

      "It's so important that we support and encourage all thoseinvolved in dealing with autism," said Charleston Mayor Joe Riley on Tuesday.

      Riley declared April Autism Awareness Month in the City ofCharleston.

      "The troubling growth in this disorder within our populationis all the more reason for us to get behind the efforts, research as well asgiving support," he said.

      Walt Jenner is the autism education andoutreach coordinator at the Medical University. He says this declaration comesjust five days after the CDC announced their most recent study on the number ofchildren living with an autism spectrum disorder.

      "The new announcement for the centers fordisease control of the prevalence of autism in the United States, that numberis 1 in 68, which is a somewhat alarming number," Jenner said.

      Jenner says a MUSC is participating in thesame CDC prevalence study, but they are also conducting their own studies onautism. He says research in the Lowcountry is a top priority for his team atMUSC.

      "The new announcement for the centers fordisease control of the prevalence of autism in the United States, that numberis 1 in 68, which is a somewhat alarming number," he said.

      Since the cause of autism is still unknownJenner says it's important for early intervention.

      "Early intervention is so important autismcan be recognized by two years of age, according to our research. The averageage of assessment, the average age of diagnosis, is four so we want to drivethat number down to two.," Jenner said.

      Wednesday is World Autism Day and homes andbusinesses will turn on a blue light for autism awareness.

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