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Partner Spotlight

Partner Spotlight: Kate Curry, Campaign Champion

Brenden with his sister Brenden is like many other 9-year-olds—he’s obsessed with sports, delights in antagonizing his little sister sometimes and enjoys being with his friends at school. Brenden is also very different—he worries constantly, has trouble putting words together and has not developed social skills like other kids his age. Brenden’s mom, Kate Curry, knew that he was special from a very young age. When Brenden was finally diagnosed with autism at age 6, she felt some relief that they could begin to get him the help and intervention he needed to succeed.

“As a nurse, I knew that Brenden was special long before he was diagnosed,” says Curry. “In your heart, as a parent, you also know the developmental milestones your child should be reaching, and he just wasn’t achieving them. After three years of doctors’ visits and a lot of frustration, we are now able to focus on treatment and intervention to help Brenden reach his full potential.”

With the cause being personal for her family, Curry was eager to become involved when her local Autism Society of America chapter was looking for volunteers. She had just quit her job to stay home and care for Brenden and younger sister Emily, and she was looking for a way to give back to the community and to individuals who had helped her family get through some difficult times before Brenden’s diagnosis.

Knowing firsthand the importance of educating health care professionals about developmental milestones, Curry decided to participate in Health Care Professional Kit Distribution Week. In April 2005, Curry distributed 10 kits in three days to local doctors and child care providers. Brenden went with her, which she says had a tremendous impact on the results.

“The doctors we visited were so excited to receive the campaign materials,” says Curry. “I heard over and over how this is exactly the type of developmental Brenden with Kateinformation they have needed for a long time, but they just didn’t know where to find it. Having Brenden with me made an impact on the doctors. They saw a real example of how this disorder affects a child’s life, and we were an in-person example of how important early detection and intervention really are.”

Curry also recently participated in PSA (public service announcement) Distribution Week. During this week in September 2005, campaign champions contacted local media outlets and encouraged them to run the campaign print, television and radio PSAs.

With a few local connections and loads of determination, Curry reached out to the Philadelphia Inquirer; her local community paper, The Community Courier; and a radio station at of the University of Pennsylvania. She even wrote letters to the “Today Show” and “Oprah,” realizing that a heartfelt story from a mother might be just the impact needed to secure coverage and reach millions of viewers. While many times, PSA coverage is not immediate, Curry’s efforts may have already resulted in an editorial piece appearing on a local radio show, “Voices in the Family.”

“This campaign is my life story, and being involved allows me to give back,” says Curry. “There were so many times that I sat in a doctor’s office filled with frustration and confusion. I knew there was something wrong with Brenden, but I didn’t know how to help. Sometimes in the trenches, it seems like a hopeless situation, and by teaching the importance of monitoring your child’s cognitive and social development, the ‘Learn the Signs. Act Early.’ campaign allows parents and doctors to work together to ensure each child reaches his or her full potential.”

Curry wants to change the stigma associated with autism. She wants to let parents, educators, and health care professionals know that early intervention is key to a child’s success. By volunteering her time and giving back, if Curry is saving one family from even the slightest bit of heartache, then it is all worth it.

“When Brenden is frustrated with language, he always says to me, ‘help me find the words,’” says Curry. “That is what I always seem to be able to do for him, help him find the words, and I am not going to stop anytime soon.”

For more information on how you can reach out to health professionals in your area, visit the How to Get Involved page of the “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” website.

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