Bubbles blown for autism

Students at Jefferson Elementary School joined an expected 37,000 people across the U.S. and Canada who were blowing bubbles in an effort to raise autism awareness, and set a possible world record in the process.

Autism is a developmental brain disorder which impairs a person’s ability to communicate, interact socially and can result in repetitive and unusual behaviors. “Blow Bubbles 4 Autism,” which began in Ventnor, N.J., nine years ago, is sponsored by Faces 4 Autism and the United Way. For one minute at 12:15 local time, about 190 first and second graders assembled at the Jefferson School playground to fill the air with as many bubbles as they could.

Valley City’s portion of the event was organized by Jennifer Cabezas, who thanked Jefferson’s staff and principal Troy Miller for help in putting it all together.

“Mr. Miller and the school here have done an exceptional job,” Cabezas said. “We tried to organize events for the whole month with this being the biggest group effort. They’ve just really been helpful and understanding, really doing their best to help me out with my little mission here.”

Cabezas has twin boys turning 9 in a few weeks who both have autism. She said the boys, Ethan and Shelby, first started showing signs of the affliction when they were between one and two years old, which she said was a fairly common age range.

“They start screening that age now, but when my children were younger the prevalence wasn’t as high,” she said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism is growing at a rate of 10 to 17 percent a year, affecting over 1.5 million people in America alone. It affects 1 in 110 children and 1 in 70 boys in the country and costs the nation over $35 billion a year, although that number is expected to increase.