Coronado Mom Raises Awareness About Autism

Caragh and Camille Zeigler

April 2 marks the fourth annual United Nations World Autism Awareness Day, and one Coronado mom has made it her mission to bring attention to the disorder that has affected her family and so many others.

Kelly Zeigler has two daughters with Autism Spectrum Disorder—Caragh, age 5, and Camille, age 4. But the path to that diagnosis was difficult.

“Because most people look at autism as a boy’s disorder, many girls are overlooked,” Zeigler said. “I had doctors tell me my girls are ‘shy’ or ‘just quiet little angels.’”

A 2006 study found that the prevalence of ASD was four to five times higher for boys than for girls, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

“As a result, girls are diagnosed later and later,” Zeigler said, adding that studies have shown the sooner a child can get help, the better his or her long-term diagnosis will be. 

“Sadly, my story is not the only one,” she explained. “There are so many girls—even in our local community—with ASD, and so many more that I question and wonder about that may not be diagnosed.”

Zeigler, whose daughters attend the pre-K program at the Early Childhood Development Center in Coronado, started a blog and Facebook page called the Puzzle Piece Princess. Her life’s goal is to let parents know that autism also affects girls.

According to the CDC, about one in 110 children in the United States have ASD—roughly 1 percent.

World Autism Awareness Day is meant to recognize individuals with autism and raise awareness of the disorder as a growing global concern. The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution in 2007 to recognize the day across the world. Their goal was to shed light on this growing epidemic and to celebrate the uniqueness and individuality of those living with autism.

“Early detection and intervention is the key to improving typical development,” Zeigler said. “Therefore it is essential that parents, teachers and medical providers become aware of the signs of autism.”

The CDC says that from birth to 5 years of age, a child should be achieving certain milestones in the way he or she talks, learns, plays and interacts with others.

“A delay in any of these areas could be a sign of ASD or other developmental disability,” the CDC reported.

To learn more about the symptoms of autism, click here and read about the “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” campaign. 

At this time there is no known cause or cure for autism.

On April 2 and throughout the month of April, organizations across the globe will join forces to raise awareness about autism and give hope to those children that are undiagnosed and misunderstood—or those like Zeigler’s girls that have been mislabeled as “shy” and “quiet.”

Here are some events going on around San Diego:

  • Saturday, April 2, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., “ACT Today for Military Families” 5K, 10K and Family Festival at Fiesta Island in Mission Bay.
  • Saturday, April 2, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Paddle for Autism Awareness at North Ski Beach in Mission Bay Park.
  • Thursday, April 14, Coronado Middle School, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Coronado Coffee presents speaker Libby Vincent who will cover various topics including raising a child with autism.

Additionally, Autism Speaks, the nation’s largest autism advocacy organization, started the Light It Up Blue campaign, which raises awareness about autism by encouraging supporters to wear blue and to light homes and landmarks throughout the world blue.

Participants include: the Empire State Building in New York, Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro and the Sydney Opera House.

To learn more and get involved, click here.