Leah Dinoris is an autistic girl who recently turned 16 and decided for her sweet 16th to raise money for Autism research, partnering with the Eagles Autism Foundation.
As of February 25, Leah has raised $13,094.00, hoping to reach a goal of $25,000 by 16 May 2020, where she will take part in a charity walk with the Philadelphia Eagles NFL team.
The Greek Herald talked with her father, Peter Dinoris, about their incredible journey and efforts in raising money for Autism, to better the lives of many autistic children.
1. What were some personal influences that led you to dedicate your sweet 16 and all the proceeds from the fundraiser to Autism research?
My severely autistic daughter, Leah Dinoris, turned 16 on 5 February and to celebrate we decided that is going to participate in the Eagles Autism Challenge in Philadelphia, USA.
Her life has had many difficulties and will continue to do so as she remains non-verbal. Doctors, schools etc. did not have much hope for her when she was younger but through hard work by close family, she is the happiest girl.
When she was first diagnosed (at 18 months old) there was very little available in Australia for the treatment of the severely autistic children. We tried everything that was available despite the cost however there was no improvements for Leah.
My spouse decided to dedicate substantial time to conducting research into studies and attending seminars in USA.
It was not until Leah was 9 years old that she attended a school for a month in Indianapolis, USA known as BACA that we experienced the method of teaching severely autistic children in the USA. In that one month, Leah went from not being able to sit down for more than 5 minutes to doing a full day of school. They identified the knowledge Leah had and improved her behaviour more than we could have ever expected.
If it was not for Leah attending that school and the benefits we have experienced from the autism research in USA, Leah would not have such a happy life (and God help us if they didn’t make those improvements back then).
2. What preparations will you be making for the autism walk with the Philadelphia Eagles in May?
With the assistance of Leah’s carers we will be slowly working up to training her to get the walk done without any stress or issues.
What normal people take for granted such as being told to walk around a stadium etc. involves many weeks of taking her for walks, showing her videos of what to expect, preparing sight cards, etc.
3. How important it is that foundations and charities are now beginning to raise money for specific autism research and development apart from awareness?
Research estimates that 1 in 70 people in Australia are on the autism spectrum. Prevalence rates were previously estimated to be 1 in 100. This increase appears to be due to better recognition of autism from promoted awareness of autism in the community and more accurate diagnosis rather than there being more people with autism than previously believed. Awareness of autism is essential and important. We know that the earlier intervention can begin the greater the improvement in learning, communication and social skills may be. We also know that nearly two-thirds of children with autism between the ages of 6 and 15 have been bullied perhaps due to a lack of understanding of autism.
Whilst continuing with awareness and support of people on the autism spectrum, it is important to continue the research focus on the causes of autism. Understanding the biology of autism is essential to allow researchers to develop personalised therapies and medical treatments that will enhance the lives of people with autism.
4. How supportive have the Greek community been in raising funds and awareness for your fundraiser?
The Pankoakos Association of Queensland has shown amazing support by donating US$2,500. We cannot thank them enough for their very generous support.
A Greek lady who operates as Lady Buttercream in Brisbane will also be helping out with creating some fundraising ideas with her cakes.
I will be advertising the charity event in the Logos for the Greek Community of St George that is expected to be issued prior to Easter.
A number of the committee members of the Greek Community of St George have made a personal donation to Leah.
You can donate money for Leah’s fundraiser here: https://fundraisers.hakuapp.com/leah-dinoris