Fashion Rocks Autism fundraiser benefits SafeMinds, families with autism

Most parents try to hide the craziness that goes on in their house. Shari Malowitz embraces it.

There is a plaque on her front door that says "Casa de Crazy." She has a blog with the same title. And life can get a little crazy in her house with five kids aging in range from 8 to 15.

"Anything can set off anyone at any time, but you know there are some triggers that are more potent than others," she said.

Each of Malowitz's children has a disability. Her sons, Isaac, Julian and Ben, all have autism. They were diagnosed between the ages of 14 and 18 months and no two are the same.

"I call it the variety pack, the autism variety pack," she said.

Isaac and Julian attend Cockeysville Middle School. Malowitz says Julian is fully mainstream and Isaac does a few mainstream activities like band and has his own self-contained functional learning class. Ben attends classes at Kennedy Krieger.

Malowitz also has 8-year-old twin daughters, Sophia and Rebecca, who have learning disabilities. There are many challenges Malowitz and her husband juggle when it comes to raising their kids like behavior, education and medical issues. And through it all, Malowitz does what she can to not let it weigh her down.

"You have a choice. You can either be unhappy about it or you can find the good in it," she said.

She's not only finding the good, she's helping other families like her's do the same. Her blog, "Casa de Crazy," is about her experiences raising three boys with autism. She's involved with autism groups like SafeMinds. Last year, Malowitz and Isaac walked in the SafeMinds' "Fashion Rocks Autism" fundraiser show.

"As soon as we were done, he said can I do it again next year? And Isaac doesn't ask for much," she said.

Isaac will be walking again this year, along with his sisters, and dozens of other models. The fashion show raises donations for SafeMinds to do the advocacy work it does everyday to end the autism epidemic.

Lisa Wiederlight, the executive director of SafeMinds, says the diagnosis rate for autism use to be 1 in 500 in 1995. Today, its 1 in 68, and 1 in 55 in Maryland. 

"The federal government has treated autism like a research project for the past 20 years," said Wiederlight.

SafeMinds works on a number of projects, including legislation that would provide funding to law enforcement around the country to be trained how to deal with autistic children who wander.

Wiederlight, who has a son with autism, says there is much more work to do be done to address the issues connected to autism.

"So as you can imagine, as the number of people with autism has increased the need for resources has increased," she said. "Best practices for education, we don't have any. Law enforcement and other first responders need to be trained and none of that has been a priority until now."

"Fashion Rocks Autism" is Monday November 13 at the Hunt Valley Inn. For information on how to purchase tickets, click here.

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