Participants take on Vegas challenge for Autism Speaks— PHOTOS

Widely conspicuous through the thousands of participants at Saturday’s BAD­ASS Dash at the South Point were the red and white T-shirts of the Las Vegas Obstacle Course Team.

Some 150 members of the team were on hand to tackle the 45 challenges.

“This is the best introductory obstacle course you can do,” said Bryan Nelson, 37, co-owner of Real Results Fitness, a Las Vegas gym that collaborates with Raw Fitness to organize the team.

Some 3,400 participants were expected to tackle the course featuring ladder walls, balance beams and parallel bars. People wore shirts displaying #team­nosleepcq, Sore Today or Sorry Tomorrow and Camp Rhino, a Las Vegas fitness company featuring an obstacle course for part of its training.

A portion of the proceeds benefits Autism Speaks, a nonprofit dedicated to those with autism spectrum dis­order. Several staff members of BADASS Dash, based in suburban Cleveland, have children with autism, CEO Grant Reeves said.

Some of the obstacles were designed to give participants a feel for what autistic people experience. Toward the start of the race, for example, participants had to crawl through a series of tubes.

“Somebody with autism feels these obstacles, or various forms of these obstacles, every day,” Reeves said.

Lo Davis, 32, of Las Vegas was attracted to the event because a neighbor has three autistic children, and Davis wanted to do something to support the cause.

“You wouldn’t know her kids are autistic,” Davis said. “They are very bright. Any curriculum comes very easy to them.”

Autism is a complex developmental disorder distinguished by difficulties with social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and behavioral problems, including repetitive behaviors and narrow focus of interest. Males are affected four times as often as females, and different factors make children more prone to autism, including environment and a family history.

People who would not have been considered autistic 20 years ago will be recognized as showing some characteristics of autism today because of changes in the diagnosis criteria, said Dr. Blair Duddy, a pediatrician with HealthCare Partners Nevada.

“That’s why they’re calling it a spectrum disorder because it can be very mild or very severe,” Duddy said. “Severe autism is easy. Mild autism might not get diagnosed for some time.”

A comparison can be made with the manifestations of obsessive compulsive disorder, Duddy said.

Autism in mild cases presents as nothing more than personality differences in the same way different people can have a range of obsessive compulsive behaviors.

Doctors test for autism with behavioral evaluations, Duddy said, but parents often are the first to notice children showing such signs as failing to make eye contact, not responding to their name or playing with toys in unusual, repetitive ways.

“It’s absolutely treatable, and that’s why we focus on early intervention,” Duddy said. “The key is repetitively coaching them how to navigate the world in terms of interactions.”

The event at the South Point was one of eight organized by the company this year, Reeves said, and scores of volunteers are needed, including 150 Saturday at the South Point.

One such volunteer was Aimee Perez, a 17-year-old student at Veterans Tribute, a Las Vegas magnet high school that requires community service.

Reeves said volunteers are recruited through high schools and social media.

“Vegas has been great,” he said. “The support is awesome.”

Contact Steven Moore at smoore@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4563.

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