AUSTIN (KXAN) — Throughout the iconic Peter Pan miniature golf course, you’ll find massive technicolor statues, including ones of dinosaurs, rabbits, clown heads and of course, Peter Pan.
But today, putters also found signs displaying facts about autism spectrum disorder.
That is because Spark Learning – a local clinic that provides therapy to children on the autism spectrum – hosted their annual event “Putt Fore Autism” at the miniature golf course. The event is organized to boost education on the condition and raise funds for the Autism Society of Texas.
“We’ve established this event year after year to bring awareness to the community,” said Lynne Shaffer, clinical director at Spark Learning. The organization provides services to roughly 200 clients with autism. This is the ninth year that the organization has held the event.
“It feels great to give back directly to a community that can be impacted by the funding directly,” Shaffer said.
Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disability that can cause social, communication and behavioral challenges. The CDC estimates that roughly one in 44 people in the United States is autistic. This number has dramatically increased in the last few decades – in 2000, for example, the CDC reported that one in 150 children was identified as having autism.
Some scientists believe that the increase in the rate is less to do with an actual rise in cases and more to do with children in the last ten years getting more accurate diagnoses.
The funds raised during the Putt Fore Diagnosis help Texans who may have received a misdiagnosis as a child get an accurate one as an adult.
“A lot of adults find us,” said Jacquie Benestante, executive director of the Autism Society of Texas. “(Clients who) were misdiagnosed or missed completely when they were younger.”
Benestante said the organization receives around 130 calls a month from people across the state who are seeking a diagnosis or help to access crucial services.
“We kind of talk them through the process, let them know where to go, and help make sure they get connected with the services,” she said.
A portion of all of the tickets for a round of golf at Peter Pan from Nov. 3 to Nov. 5 went directly to the non-profit.
The funds will help train staff and increase advocacy initiatives, Benestante said.