In 1995, the prevalence of autism in the United States was one in every 2,500 births. Today, that figure stands at a staggering one in every 68 U.S. births.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that includes impairment in social interaction and social communication. Individuals with ASD also exhibit repetitive patterns of behavior or interest that limit everyday functioning. An intellectual or language impairment is also possible. All these symptoms will first appear in early childhood.
As NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams travel to Dover (Del.) International Speedway, the NASCAR community will help shine a light on the disorder and those impacted by it as a part of Sunday’s AAA 400 Drive for Autism.
Danica Patrick’s No. 10 Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) will feature a special paint scheme for Sunday’s race as the Autism Delaware logo will adorn the car’s rear quarter panels. Patrick’s sponsor, Nature’s Bakery, has partnered with Autism Delaware to help raise awareness for the agency and the programs it has in place to assist those diagnosed with ASD.
Autism Delaware was started by a small group of parents in 1998 and now the independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit is made up of individuals with ASD, their family members, the professionals who serve them and friends of people with ASD. The agency’s mission is to help people and families affected by ASD. With offices in Newark, Dover and Lewes, Autism Delaware serves the entire state. Autism Delaware offers a variety of family support programs, including parent mentoring, social and recreational events, and summer camps. As children with autism grow to be adults with autism, Autism Delaware also offers an adult vocational program called Productive Opportunities for Work and Recreation that helps adults with autism get and keep jobs, making them productive members of society.
In addition to featuring the agency on the No. 10 Nature’s Bakery/Autism Delaware Chevrolet SS, Patrick will wear a special firesuit featuring the Autism Delaware logo in Sunday’s race. Nature’s Bakery will donate the firesuit to Autism Delaware to be auctioned off to help raise funds for the organization.
On race day, 18-year-old aspiring racecar driver Devin O’Connell from Madison, Connecticut will serve as the Nature’s Bakery Fantern at Dover. O’Connell was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome when he was in the third grade. In addition to the typical race-day Fantern activities, which include spending time with the Nature’s Bakery pit crew, a tour of the Sprint Cup garage and pit area, meeting Patrick and watching the race from pit road, O’Connell will visit the Nature’s Bakery display at Dover on Sunday to talk with fans about his personal autism story.
As Patrick heads to Dover, she is looking to top last year’s results at the concrete mile oval. In May 2015, she earned her best-ever finish at the track by scoring a 15th-place result. While the No. 10 Nature’s Bakery/Autism Delaware Chevrolet SS team hopes to improve upon that mark this weekend, it also looks to help Nature’s Bakery raise awareness for the efforts of Autism Delaware.