Featured photo: Talent showcased in ‘Autism’s Got Talent includes solving a Rubik’s Cube puzzle.
Written by Tanya Terry
As of April 13, there were a handful of entries in Autism’s Got Talent, a fundraiser for Hope Network Foundation and Hope Network’s Center for Autism, in which kids and young adults with autism are able to showcase their skills. According to Eddie Murray, director of donor relations in southeast Michigan for Hope Network and former placekicker for the NFL, as many entries as possible are wanted.
Until April 21, autistic individuals ages 25 and younger are able to upload videos of their talents-whatever they may be. Entries so far have included such unique talents as ventriloquism, ping-pong, bowling and solving a Rubik’s cube puzzle. Voting for the videos started April 11, and the first round of voting ends April 30.
Fittingly, April is also Autism Awareness Month.
People diagnosed with autism can be nonverbal and nonfunctioning to high functioning autistic person with unbelievable math abilities, technology abilities, or language abilities, according to Murray.
“The spectrum is huge.”
Murray has been involved with Hope Network for 10 years. He shared a somewhat grim reality.
“When I first got involved with Hope Network, it used to be one in 70 kids fell on the spectrum,” he said. “Now it’s about one in 55. The numbers are going the wrong way. So, there is a lot of research going well, as well as there are greater opportunities out there for autism services. But, it’s few and far between.”
Hope Network’s focus is helping children integrate into the school system. They specialize in early diagnosis and try to get children from ages 2-6 to help see where they are on the spectrum and provide services to help them integrate them to regular school. Other organizations that serve individuals living with autism specialize in different age groups.
Money raised through Autism’s Got Talent could be used for sensory equipment, books or other needed items at any of five Hope Network’s Center for Autism locations.
Murray pointed out that because sometimes autistic children get teased, bullied or misunderstood, these children may have difficulty in a public setting.
“This way, because it’s virtual, the family can control how they videotape their child,” he said. “We want them to have fun with it.”
Voters pay $1 for each vote in the People’s Choice Contest. Donations will also be accepted.
A Judge’s Choice award recipient will also be named.
Celebrity judges for the event include Brian Calley, president and CEO of the Small Business Association of Michigan and former lieutenant governor of Michigan; Dan Miller, Fox 2 Detroit broadcaster and radio voice of the Detroit Lions; and Fredi and Romina Bello, autism activists and restaurant entrepreneurs.
Calley has a daughter who has autism and has been extremely supportive of Hope Network’s autism services and other autism services, according to Murray. Miller’s son has autism. The Bellos are a husband and wife team that have a foundation called Fredi the PizzaMan Foundation.
“At this point in time they (at the Fredi the PizzaMan Foundation) have raised over $200,000 and have donated sensory room equipment to 45 schools throughout the state of Michigan.”
The virtual host for Autism’s Got Talent Michigan is Anthony Ianni, an award-winning speaker, author and former Michigan State University basketball player. Ianni was diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder, which is on the autism spectrum, at the age of four.
To view entries and/or vote in Autism’s Got Talent, visit www.agtmi.org.