MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Families across the Grand Strand are coming together to try and raise money to help children suffering with autism by participating in an inaugural 5K and dog walk.
The event will be held at The Market Common on Saturday.
Jim Coulter, the executive director of SOS Healthcare, said the developmental disorder is "one of the greatest childhood disorders that we have. It's kind of like a hidden epidemic."
Monique Clement and her husband Jim have two children with autism, Daniel and Thomas.
"We started noticing around 15 months Thomas started losing his verbal skills and he wouldn't look at us and loud noises wouldn't bother him," said Monique Clement, whose two children with her husband Jim are autistic.
The boys - Daniel and Thomas - are a year apart, and Monique said learning both her sons had autism was like discovering a different language, and then trying to master it as quickly as possible.
"It's quite a shock when you have to learn and start reading up on something that your child possibly has," she commented.
While 80 percent of families with autistic children end in divorce, the Clements are holding strong. They focus their energy on making other people aware of the disorder through programs at SOS Healthcare.
Monique says the program helped Thomas with his language and Daniel with his social skills.
"In three months when we went back to school - they could not believe he was saying words and really starting to focus and have eye contact," she said.
Monique and Jim embrace the two boys with love and understanding and want to help other parents who have children with autism find their way.