and the commentary later. I didn't get a soundbite (wasn't expecting to) but you can see me at 1:29. From ABC 7 and News Channel 8 in DC:
Autism Walk on National Mall Stirs Controversy
WASHINGTON - Thousands of people converged on the National Mall Saturday for a great cause -- fighting autism.
Several protesters, many of whom also fall on the autism spectrum, used the annual "Walk Now for Autism" event to point out the flaws with the event sponsor.
Michelle Parris came out the Mall ready to walk 2.5 miles for her son Miles. "I just want other people to not have to deal with the same difficulties that my son has dealt with," she said. "If there's a way that we can end it that would be great."
Her cause, along with thousands of others, is for autism, a neurobiological disorder that affects one in 150 children.
"My little boy who turns 8 in two weeks is mildly autistic and I have many friends who have children who are autistic," said Yitbarek Arefeaine.
Early intervention was key for 7-year-old Ahadu Arefeaine who is now making great progress through speech and occupational therapy. He sometimes even teaches his parents a thing or two.
"He can tell you everything you wanted to know about a bee -- more than I ever knew," said Arefeaine.
The annual walk sponsored by Autism Speaks drew families and supporters from all over the D.C. area. Together they raised closed to $700,000.
"This money goes toward research and autism awareness," said Joe Galli, chair of the D.C. chapter of Autism Speaks. "These kids are struggling to get the treatment that they need."
On the other end of the Mall, protesters held an event of their own questioning the practices of Autism Speaks.
"They use fear and stigma and pity to try and raise money off the backs of our people," said Ari Ne'eman, president of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.
The group says the money raised Saturday and at future events won't all go to help those with the disorder. "Its funding goes overwhelmingly toward things like genetic research to create a prenatal test to end our existence," said Ne'eman.
The protesters were set up where they could be seen, right near the path of Saturday's walk. They said they did get some backlash but most people were receptive and wanted to learn more.