Meet Cheryl Bauerle, President of Autism Advocate Foundation

When Cheryl Bauerle’s daughter, Sommer, was born she knew almost immediately that there was something different about her. By the time she was two Sommer had been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and was receiving daily therapy. People with ASDs tend to have problems with social and communication skills and have unusual ways of learning and paying attention. There is no cure, but with early intervention and therapy, many people with ASD can live a full and productive life. Today Sommer is 12 years old and a mainstream student in Myrtle Beach Intermediate School.

March 2008 Candid

Sommer’s birth was the beginning of a journey for Cheryl; one that led her, with a small group of parents with Autistic children, to found the Autism Advocate Foundation in Horry County, an organization that started in 2004 as a grass roots, all volunteer organization, and is now a 501 (c) (3) non-profit with a full-time executive director and two part-time employees. They receive no government funding and are dependent on grants, fundraisers and private donations.

Cheryl, please tell us about the Autism Advocate Foundation.

Our goal is to provide support and services to individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders so that they may become active, contributing and fulfilled members of our community. We offer services for families, such as Project Lifesaver, a program that provides a radio transmitting wristband for Autistic children and adults. These wristbands help find them if they wander off from caregivers. Unfortunately, Autistic children are almost always very attracted to water and have no concept of the danger involved. We also offer respite for families, who may not be able to leave their child with a regular babysitter, financial aid, a Saturday Social Club to help develop social skills, as well as vocational and employment training to persons with Autism living in Horry County. For the past two summers we have offered a summer camp program, The Richards Program, through a generous donation from the Richards family. Currently we are working on implementing a Saturday Social Club Summer Program for kids with Asperger’s Syndrome and High Functioning Autism.

Please help us better understand the challenges of living with Autism.

The number of children diagnosed with ASD has increased dramatically in recent years; as of February 2007, 1 in 150 children are born with ASD. This is an increase of 500% over the last decade. Eighty percent of couples with an Autistic child divorce. It’s so hard on a relationship. For most of my daughter’s life, taking care of her program has been my full-time job. I had no social life, nothing outside of my family. The therapy is very expensive, also. Most children need one-on-one attention for years. I am very fortunate to have a supportive husband and two other wonderful children. We all work together to help Sommer.

What should parents do if they suspect their child has ASD?

Don’t wait, seek help. Parents just know intuitively when something is wrong with their child. Early intervention is crucial for these children, and our area is fortunate to have some wonderful doctors. Call us. The AAF is a tight-knit group that will understand what you’re going through. You are not alone.

How can our readers get involved?

We need caring volunteers; not only to work with our children, but to help with fundraising. If that’s not possible, please visit our website, and purchase coffee and other merchandise. Local people with Autism work packaging and mailing all of our orders. Our next fundraiser, Art Loud 4 Autism, is March 14 from 5:30-9 pm. It will be held in Art by Marina, at 909 Norman Alley in Conway. We will have delicious food and drink, as well as a silent auction, all to benefit AAF.

For more information, contact the Autism Advocate Foundation by calling 843-213-0217 or visit Their office is located on Hwy. 17 Business at 63rd Ave. N. in Myrtle Beach. The national website is

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