Dr. Ricki Robinson
Cure Autism Now and Autism Speaks
Dr. Ricki Robinson often says that if you don’t know a family whose life has been touched by autism, you will. As a doctor and founding member of Cure Autism Now, an organization that combined forces with Autism Speaks in 2007, she is well aware of the troubling statistics: autism is the fastest-growing developmental disorder in North America, with the numbers increasing dramatically from one child in 10,000 a mere dozen years ago to one in 166 in 2005.
Autism, which interferes with a child’s natural development, is a lifelong disability and one that is often difficult to detect in very young children or by first-time parents. Indications of it include little or no eye contact; a delay in expressing, understanding and responding to language; a failure to develop social skills; unusual reactions to the way things look, feel, taste, smell or sound; and repetitive behaviors such as saying words or asking questions repeatedly. Sometimes children who have been progressing normally until about age two suddenly stop and begin to regress. Some children never talk; others do. It all adds to the lack of understanding about what autism is, Dr. Robinson says.
Providing hope to families is crucial in light of the stark reality that very little government aid or health care coverage is available to mitigate the costs associated with treating the disorder. One of Dr. Ricki’s special gifts is helping parents understand how their child is learning, and that coming to expect that child to become "the best they can be" is an attainable goal. "Dr. Ricki was the first one to give us hope," says one parent. "She could see possibilities we couldn’t." Today, at fourteen, her son is "calmer, rich in language, with lots of friends." His mother remains in awe of Dr. Ricki’s patience and compassion, her skill and diligent research. "I believe she fundamentally rewired his brain,” she says. “She is a very special person."