TODAY   |  April 02, 2013

How you can help spread autism awareness

Autism advocates Laura Slatkin, Lisa Goring and Eric Peacock tell TODAY’s Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb that they are committed to helping families find the support they need raising kids who have autism, including a social network where parents can connect with each other.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> the cdc estimates that one in every 50 american children has autism and every april, autism awareness month attempts to educate the public about this disorder and reach out though those who need help.

>> here to give us some insight is laura slatkin and eric pea do peacock.

>> your son was diagnosed with autism and a lot of people will go into their own hole and only care about their own family. i think it's interesting that you branched out. you kind of reached out to help.

>> we did, when david was diagnosed with autism , i literally cried myself to sleep. and i woke up the next morning and my husband said to me, you know, laura, this is a waste of energy, this is just negative energy . you're not helping anyone, you're not going to help your skfl. david or our family. and that's what we decided we were going to roll up our sleeves and do something about.

>> how long was that?

>> he was diagnosed in 2000 .

>> and he was a twin, right? you have a daughter as well.

>> she was developing normally.

>> she's doing perfectly fine. but david was diagnosed with severe autism .

>> the other end of the spectrum.

>> a lot of people --

>> well the first thing we tried to find a school for david . we were shocked that in our community, new york city , one of the most important cities in the world, right? there was nothing. all the really superior schools were in new jersey. we had to get in the car and go over a bridge to get a really great school for david . that just started our whole process. because we reached out to the school chancellor, joel klein at the time. and i sent him a letter and i said, we don't have a really great school in new york city for children with autism and i'd like to start one. and he sent me back a letter, immediately. saying, we have over 5,000 children with autism in the new york city public school system. we need your help.

>> and you guys did --

>> that's what motivated you.

>> autism speaks , is such a huge organization, we talked about it this morning in the chat. what will you hoping to do this year?

>> we have four pillars to our mission, it's research, advocacy, awareness and family services . and i'm thrilled to be part of the family services team.

>> people need help.

>> they don't know where to go.

>> our goal is to connect families with resources that can improve the outcomes for their children, the young adults , with autism .

>> does early, early teaching, early care make a huge difference like so many other things?

>> it does. it improves the outcome for an individual with autism most certainly. for example, for my son, he's severely affected by autism . so even though he had 40 hours of therapy every day, i mean every week -- it was challenging. but for most people, it really advances them.

>> eric, your nephew had awedism. i think what's interesting about your story, is you were using the web, facebook, you figured you could find a guy on facebook or a date, why can't you find help in that way.

>> my website is a social site for parents of kids with autism . you want to find parents just like you so you don't feel like you're reinventing the wheel.

>> or you don't feel alone.

>> you go to now there's 40,000 parents on it from all across the country.

>> just talking to each other?

>> you can ask for advice, get tips, get referrals on providers. but most important, you can get support on a day-to-day basis from other parents.

>> that will be the best help can you get from people going through the exact same thing or have gone through it and have something to share. thanks very much. i wish we had more time to talk about it thank you.