By Danny Restivo
More than a million people, including 50,000 in Ohio, are affected by autism, according to the Autism Society of Ohio.
The disability baffles and confuses many who see it and study it. It’s one of the reasons the puzzle piece is the symbol of autism.
“There are so many unknowns about autism that it puzzles people,” said Craig Rader, an event coordinator with the Mahoning Valley Autism Society of Ohio.
On April 14, OH WOW! The Roger and Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science and Technology is hosting PuzzleMania to help benefit the Autism Society of Ohio.
Rader said the jigsaw-puzzle-building competition will help raise awareness about the disorder, and all the proceeds from the event will benefit educational and support programs that help families living with their child’s diagnosis.
Hundreds of puzzle-related events will be taking place around the country during autism awareness month in April, said Aundrea Cika, Director of the Mahoning Valley Autism Society of Ohio.
However, Cika said this will be the largest such event in Northeast Ohio. She said there are many similarities between puzzles and autism, including the complexity and unique natures.
“No two puzzles are the same, and neither are two people with autism,” said Cika. “The saying is, if you’ve met one person with autism then you only know one person with the disorder.”
Rader said the cost to enter the competition is $25. He said there will be puzzle competitions for children and adults from noon to 4 p.m.
He said the competitions will include a 300-piece puzzle with teams of three competing against one another.
Rader said the adult competition will also include a 500-piece puzzle individual competition.
“It will be interesting to see how some of the adults perform,” said Rader. “I’ve seen some people do one in less than three hours.”
For information on other autism- awareness events taking place in the Mahoning Valley during April, visit autismohio.org. Anyone interested in participating in PuzzleMania can visit the website to sign up or visit the Mahoning Valley Autism Society of Ohio’s Facebook page. Participants also can sign up at the Autism Society’s office at 25 E. Boardman St., Suite 230.