By Kelsey Givens
One in every 88.
That’s the alarming rate in which children in the United States today are being diagnosed with autism, according to the National Autism Association.
People in every state, city and community are seeing the effects of this developmental disability.
Not everyone touched by it, however, has the financial ability to go out and purchase items to better the lives of individuals living with it.
Knowing the affects of the condition first-hand, one man is trying, with the help of investors, to get his nonprofit up and running in order to actively place technology and the arts in the hands of disadvantaged families with autistic children and young adults.
David Berkowitz, a Las Vegas native, has Asperger’s Syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism, and three children who have also been diagnosed with some degree of autism as well.
A retired veteran currently working in sales, he started his foundation, Autism Advocacy and Technology News Zone, last year with the hope of raising money to buy and donate technology, music and the arts to families and schools working to educate and better the lives of people with autism.
“As an individual with high-functioning Asperger syndrome and the father of three kids who are also on the spectrum for this disorder, I have always felt a need to make a difference for people with autism,” Berkowitz said in a statement.
“As we get funded we intend to help those on the autism spectrum by giving the gift of the arts and technology to make the lives of people with autism better, and to support their families and the educational facilities that serve them. We are determined to make a difference in the lives of people with autism and their families,” he said.
According to the National Autism Association, autism is a “bio-neurological developmental disability.”
Generally appearing before the age of 3, this condition generally affects the development of areas in the brain which control social interactions, communication and cognitive development.
The NAA states autism is four times as likely to affect males as females, and 40 percent of children diagnosed with the disability typically don’t speak.
Sadly, the association also reports that while autism has become one of the fastest growing developmental disorders in the nation, it is also one of the most severely underfunded.
While some organizations exist to raise funds for the study of how autism affects people, Berkowitz said he wants to focus more on helping enrich these individuals’ lives.
“Were trying to help create an autism foundation for quality of life and education because no one is really doing it,” he said.
Berkowitz explained items like iPads, other electronic tablets and musical instruments are very kinesthetic devices, which make learning much easier for those on the autism spectrum.
He hopes by being able to provide these types of learning tools to families and schools, he can help enrich the lives of those with autism, while also giving them another way to communicate and interact with the people and world around them.
“A lot of families with autistic kids aren’t rich, they can’t afford to just go out and buy these things,” Berkowitz said.
And by introducing more music and the arts to people with autism, Berkowitz said he believes it may be possible for these kids to find an easier way of expressing themselves or finding a talent they would have never known they had.
“Half the time you don’t even know if they could succeed in these areas and don’t have the money to even give them the chance,” he said.
By gaining funding through partnerships and donations, Berkowitz wants to not only purchase the tools but possibly sponsor activities such as artist meet and greets, free concert tickets or special events to help raise awareness for autism.
Lack of money is keeping the dream from becoming reality.
“The first help we need is funding for the 501(c)(3), as well as a lawyer or CPA to do the paperwork properly. We also need exposure such as TV, in the newspaper, magazines and web-based as well. We can not do it alone and need support to make a real difference,” Berkowitz writes on his website.
“What we really need is for some other organization or company to partner with us so we can get the accreditation. There’s not much we can do until we can get that and it’s expensive.”
Berkowitz said it can cost thousands to become an accredited organization.
“I’m not rich, I can’t just go out and pay for this myself,” he said. “We have to start somewhere, and maybe by reaching out to the community someone will be willing to help us.”
While the organization seems to be hitting a wall in the way of funding, it isn’t for lack of trying.
Berkowitz has gone on several news shows, Internet radio shows and use of social media in an attempt to get the word out about what he is trying to do.
“There are a lot of people spreading the word about us on Twitter, and we’ve been featured on SpecialNeeds.com,” he said.
While the name of the organization is continuously put out there, “it has been a struggle to reach people able to help,” Berkowitz said.
Currently Autism Advocacy and Technology News Zone have a board of only two people; Berkowitz and his wife Michele. But Berkowitz said he knows several people that have said they would join once the group is accredited.
The group is based out of Las Vegas, where Berkowitz lives, but he said he doesn’t want to be limited to helping only those in the city. He wants to reach out to all surrounding area families as well, areas like Pahrump, to be able to help families dealing with autism.
“Autism affects you socially, and my family understands that, we’re living those lives ourselves,” Berkowitz said.
“I am smart, different and am going about it on my own; I need support so that I can help other people with autism,” he said.
The foundation currently had its own website technewszone.com.
Anyone interested in donating to the organization or trying to help them reach their goal of becoming a certified 501(c)(3) can go there for more information.
Berkowitz can also be reached by email for more information on how you can help at firstname.lastname@example.org.