DENVER — When parents are told their child is not developing like other children it is not unusual for parents to go through a range of emotions. They often experience disbelief, denial, anger, worry, even guilt.
But 7Everyday Hero Heidi Wateurs helps provide a bridge so parents understand they are not alone.
In May of this year, more than 800 people came out to Infinity Park in Glendale for the Autism Speaks Walk. Autism Speaks is a national nonprofit that provides funding for research and education about autism spectrum disorders.
"One third of all children who are affected by autism are going to be nonverbal," Wateurs said.
Hence the name Autism Speaks.
"We have got to be their voice. And that's why we're Autism Speaks. We are the families who are talking for them," Wateurs said.
And walking for them.
"I walked for my daughter. She is an amazing little girl. She is 13 years old and she is a part of the autism community, Wateurs said.
Wateurs was one of the leading fundraisers for the Denver walk this year.
'I am a single mom. I had no idea what autism was until I got the diagnosis. I was scared. So it became my new mission to go out and raise some money and help families and to help my family," Wateurs said.
The walk this year came soon after the Centers for Disease Control revealed the prevalence of autism is increasing worldwide. It now impacts 1 in every 59 children. That means millions of families face similar hurdles.
Ironically, the challenges that often come with an autism spectrum disorder can leave the families feeling isolated.
"One of the biggest problems is that you can become very alone when you have a child with autism because there are behaviors that don't work well with big crowds," Wateurs said.
That is why Wateurs relentlessly volunteers for Autism Speaks. She knows the more we all know about autism, the better for everyone.
"Their block, their obstacle is their nervous system is running all the time causing them to have to take that step back from you. You're thinking it's isolation or them not wanting to be in your life, but that is not true. They want to be in your life, but we're going to have to learn as a community how to bridge that gap. And that's what I am hoping to do," Wateurs said.
Mitch Jelniker anchors Denver7 in the mornings from 4:30 to 7 a.m. He also features a different 7Everyday Hero each week on Denver7. Follow Mitch on Facebook and Twitter. Nominate a 7Everyday Hero here.