OMAHA (KPTM)- It's a disorder that continues to grow in our country and medical experts have called in an epidemic.
Autism Spectrum Disorder affects millions of children in the United States and thousands in Nebraska alone.
One Nebraska family knows first hand how early intervention and knowing the signs can change the outcome for these children and help them lead successful lives.
"He's really shy around new people, when you get him around family, he's just a little comedian," Brenda Long said.
Her son Cooper is nothing short of what you expect of a 6-year-old always busy full of energy "He's really funny, he's very smart, and he's very kind."
All that Brenda Long could ask for of her first kid.
"Of course, you know, being a new mom it's always trial and error. Basically, you never know what's maybe considered normal, what's not and I just thought he was kind of plugging along just fine, then after awhile you notice things that you don't see other kids do."
Long says she'd take Cooper to daycare that's where she noticed he wouldn't play with other kids.
"He had some behavioral issues at daycare just not ever getting along not wanting to participate, that was another big indicator for me that something might be wrong."
He would even act differently at home. "Never really wanted to hug."
"He'd never really play with a car, he'd line them all up. He would just put them in a line. Just put them in a line, or playing with blocks it would always be all one color, all green, all blue."
Long took Cooper to get tested when he was three. That is when she found out he has autism
"I think us finding out when we did it's not the end of the world. It's still pretty early, three's pretty early to find that out, its at least before he started school."
Long says there's nothing more important for kids like Cooper than to have early intervention and diagnosis. 1 in 78 kids were diagnosed with autism in 2008 The CDC says that's up almost 80 percent from a decade ago (78%) and the numbers keep rising.
"The first thing is why does it happen, but then it's a relief to know he's not the only one. Or maybe like it wasn't me and I didn't do something wrong."
But that's why Long wants more people to learn how to notice the signs.
Autism is also more common in boys. Recent studies show one in 54 boys are diagnosed with the disorder.
School systems like OPS do testing for kids along with area doctors.
Saturday there will be a fundraiser. The Autism Puzzle Walk and 5k Run will be held at Chalco Hills recreation area near 156th and Giles.
All of the money raised will stay in Nebraska.
You can still register in the morning before the walk.
Here is a link to register: http://www.firstgiving.com/ASN/Autism5k