Seahawks GM Schneider's personal cause: autism

RENTON -- The fight against autism has a powerful ally: the Super Bowl champion Seahawks.

The team is part of a fundraiser underway to support families with autistic children.

It's a cause close to the team's heart, because autism is a daily reality for the head of the team. General Manger John Schneider and his wife, Traci Schneider, are parents of an autistic child.

"He was diagnosed at three and now he's 12," Traci said of their son, Ben. "It was horrible because you never want to hear something is wrong with your child, and something so big as autism. On the other hand, it was comforting in away because we finally knew what was happening."

Autistic children have a range of needs. Many have sensory issues and need in-home swings or trampolines. Non-verbal children can benefit from using an iPad to communicate. The range of special equipment and therapy can cost families upwards of $60,000 a year.

"That's huge. Some people don't make that in a year," Traci said. "So being in a position to have a child on the spectrum and not being able to help them, I can't imagine what a nightmare and how helpless that would feel."

The couple founded "Ben's Fund" to give grants to families through the autism support group Families for Effective Autism Treatment, or FEAT. Right now, a Russell Wilson autographed helmet and a football with Pete Carroll's signature are up for auction online.

Other memorabilia will sell at an event called Prime Time, where Seahawks stars are waiters for a night. It's a big gathering as a football family before the season gets underway.

"That bonding they share that night, and they're competing within the position groups themselves, it is a great team building experience, I think," John said.

In addition to bidding on items or making a donation to Ben's Fund, the couple encourages people to learn more about autism and how to support other families.

"One in 68 kids have autism, so it continues to jump in a big way," Traci said. "Making it more okay and known and making people comfortable with it and understanding it, is huge."

John agreed, saying if you see an autistic child acting unusually in a public place like the grocery store, be supportive of the family instead of treating them like a problem.

"Autism is so prevalent now. It's an okay thing," he said. "There's help for people, and there's a lot of hope."

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