Over 100 walkers step up to support autism awareness

Over 100 people took to the track at the Keystone High School Sunday to support “Autism Tough.”

The goal of the Autism Tough Foundation (ATF) is to “create a better world through kindness and acceptance.”

The ATF group has provided a number of sensory free events including skating parties, movie nights, a fall party, a trip to the Clarion County Fair, a one-day camp at Heavenly Gates in Knox, swimming, an Easter egg hunt and even a visit with Santa.

“This is our first walk for autism,” said Kayla Simpson, the secretary on the ATF board of directors. “We are spreading awareness and acceptance for individuals with disabilities.”

In addition to the walk the ATF had a resource area where families could find out more about the resources in Clarion and Venango counties and a fun zone where kids could do different events and win prizes. Providing the snacks was the Keystone High School Snack Shack.

Awareness and support are needed. “Recently the Center for Disease Control said that one in every 36 individuals has autism,” Simpson said. “The autism spectrum can be very wide from severe to very high functioning.”

Simpson said a lot of schools in the area have autism support classrooms. “In addition, Riverview Intermediate Unit 6 also houses autism support classes,” said Simpson, an autism specialist with the Intermediate Unit.

“It is challenging and rewarding too,” she said. “We teach them social skills so they can interact with the kids in their classrooms as well as their peers in the general classes.”

“We could not do this without the support of the volunteers and sponsors,” said Ashley Miller, president of ATF. “We want to thank everyone who has helped us throughout the years and the Keystone School District for allowing us the use of the facility.”