Monday, March 31, 2008

World Autism Awareness Day and CNN

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated in 2007 that as many as 1 in 150 8-year-old children in multiple areas of the United States had an autism spectrum disorder. Parents must often navigate their own paths to find helpful therapies and finance expensive education and other services independently.

In anticipation of World Autism Awareness Day, April 2, will offer expanded coverage of this mysterious neurological disorder. Viewers will be able to access news and information including the latest medical theories and research about autism as well as the stories of people who live every day with the condition. Through multimedia and interactive elements, as well as traditional stories and videos, viewers will be invited to expand their knowledge and understanding of autism.

Viewers and users are encouraged to share their firsthand accounts of life with autism through video, photo, audio or text submissions to , CNN's recently launched user-generated community Web site. Autism-related iReports are available at ; and contributors also may gain recognition by having the material they submit to the site - once vetted and approved for use - appear on a CNN network or

Preliminary coverage plans for World Autism Awareness Day on Wednesday, April 2, include:

· American Morning will introduce CNN viewers to triplets - each with autism at varying severity - born to Lynn and Randy Gaston in Ellicott City, Md. Additional reports will feature adults living with autism and distinguish medical myths from realities associated with a range of therapies and treatments. CNN's American Morning airs weekdays on CNN/U.S. from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m.

· On CNN en Español, En Familia, a 30 minute program that serves as a guide to parents, and Consulta Médica, a 30-minute prime-time program dedicated to personal health and fitness, will be focusing on the educational needs of children with autism, and addressing the latest controversies examining the link between vaccines and autism spectrum disorder. En Familia airs each Monday at 11:30 a.m. and Consulta Médica airs each Tuesday on CNN en Español at 11:30 a.m.

· A one-hour global simulcast special We Have Autism, anchored by CNN International's Colleen McEdwards, will air at noon and focus on the experiences of families living with autism around the world and feature an interview with Suzanne Wright, the co-founder of Autism Speaks, an advocacy organization for people and families living with autism. McEdwards will also report on people living with extreme symptoms of autism, with a focus on Tito, a young man who despite his severe autism, has become a high-functioning poet and author. CNN international correspondent Wilf Dinnick will report on Qatar's state-of-the-art Shafallah Centre that assists autistic children. The nation of Qatar is credited with leading U.N. efforts to establish World Autism Awareness Day as a day of global awareness. Also for We Have Autism, international correspondent John Vause will report from China about life with autism under communism. U.S. affairs editor for CNN International, Jill Dougherty will report on a family with a child recently diagnosed as autistic as they seek the best help for their child. We Have Autism will air on CNN/U.S. and CNN International.

· Actor, author, parent and autism activist Jenny McCarthy, as well as Bobby Kennedy, Jr., senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council who believes that thimerosal in vaccines is responsible for autism, will be guests on Larry King Live. Larry King Live airs weeknights on CNN/U.S. at 9 p.m. and replays at midnight.

· "Finding Amanda," a one-hour Anderson Cooper 360° special, features a few of the approximately 600,000 American adults who live with autism. Gupta will introduce viewers to Amanda Baggs of Burlington, Vt., and others, who share with him how they experience the world - from their perspective. "Finding Amanda" will premiere on CNN/U.S. at 11 p.m. and replay at 2 a.m.

· Showbiz Tonight will feature a report on a groundbreaking documentary, Autism: The Musical, set to debut on HBO on Tuesday, March 25. Showbiz Tonight airs on Headline News weeknights at 11 p.m. and replays at 2 a.m.

· CNN Newsource will offer affiliates custom liveshots with medical correspondent Judy Fortin between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. on April 2 about how families with older children living with autism cope with their challenges. Fortin's package features a Grayson, Ga., family with a 12-year-old autistic child.