As part of the April celebration of National Autism Awareness Month, the Frank Phillips College Athletic Department and the Plainsmen Baseball team will do their part in helping to raise awareness and funds for the Autism Society organization on Saturday, April 16th.
During game one of the April 16th Plainsmen doubleheader with Midland College, members of the Frank Phillips College Cheerleading team will be selling refreshments and t-shirts, donated by Rex Young Allstate Insurance and Powerhouse Printing.
The title of Saturday’s event, “FPC Baseball Striking out Autism,” will be printed on the front with all the proceeds made over the afternoon going to the Autism Society. The society is an organization that provides assistance to families affected by autism as well as helping in research and education regarding the disorder.
Prior to the noon start of the game, Texas Panhandle area children and families that have been affected by autism will be recognized on the field.
The decision for the FPC Athletic Department to get involved in raising awareness about Autism in the community was an easy one. The disorder directly affects the life and family of FPC Athletic Coordinator/Cheerleading Coach April Plagge.
Back in the fall of 2007, Plagge’s son Braedon Plagge was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder after April had noticed a change in her son’s behavior at the age of two.
In sharing the story about Braedon, Plagge said her son was the typical infant who would smile and interacted with the family up until the age of two.
However, according to Plagge, after Braedon received his chickenpox vaccination, Plagge started to notice a drastic change in her son’s behavior, leading her to realize something was not exactly right.
In looking back at those first signs, Plagge said, “Braedon’s behavior drastically started to change where he would appear to be almost deaf by being non-responsive. There was a lot of spinning and clapping as well as a lot of gibberish in his talk.”
Plagge added, “At first I noticed, but I felt it was just who he was. Yes, I knew he wouldn’t listen and spoke his own language. However, there were days when he seemed so typical it made me reconsider anything to be wrong with my little guy.”
The signs Plagge experienced with her son fall in line with many of the symptoms the Center of Disease Control (CDC) list as warning signs for autism that also include not using social smiles or expressions, no eye contact when their name is called, lack of face-to-face play, the lack of using gestures such as pointing, reaching or waving; and presenting a loss of speech, babbling or social skills at any age.
According to a survey provided by the Texas Center for Disability Studies of 1,300 families, the average age of diagnosis of autism was about six years of age, although most parents were concerned about their child’s development by 18 months of age, and had consulted a physician by the age of two years.
Despite the strides geneticists have made in trying to identify genetic markers, there is still no medical test for autism.
This means diagnoses are based on the presence or absence of behaviors as reported by parents and observed by doctors.
Over the past several years there have been debates in the medical field in regards to the role vaccines play in the potential development of autism. However, after seeing the drastic change in her own son, there is no question Plagge connects the chickenpox vaccine her son received to his development of the condition.
According to the CDC, currently 1 in 110 childen is diagnosed with autism, with boys being four times more likely than girls to have autism spectrum.
According to the Texas Center for Disability Studies, in the Texas Panhandle and Lubbock area about 2 of every 1000 children have autism.
For Braedon, Plagge said in the years since his initial diagnosis there has been a lot of intense therapy and treatments her son has gone through that has seemed to help her son improve.
Plagge is quick to point out that each day is completely different from the last, but there is no question that this mom takes a lot of pride in the improvement and the accomplishments she has seen from her son.
Plagge said, “A few weeks ago Braedon received a 100 on his spelling test which is something we were told at one time would not have been possible. For the most part he is able to spend most of the day in his classes at school. There are days that are still hard but it brings me a lot of joy in seeing what he is able to accomplish.” Plagge added, “As he grows I just want him to be able to love and be loved.”
For Saturday’s events with the Frank Phillips Baseball team, Plagge will try to make the day a special one for Braedon by giving him the opportunity to throw out the first pitch.