Seahawks GM raises autism awareness, helps provide resources to Washington families

KING COUNTY, Wash. -- April is Autism Awareness Month, and it's a good thing because many people do not know that one in 68 children has autism.

And when it comes to making people more aware, the disorder has some loud voices like Seattle Seahawks General Manager John Schneider and his wife Traci.

"We always say Ben has taught us more than we've taught Ben. He's taught us so much as ourselves as individuals, and also as a couple," said Traci.

Their son Ben was diagnosed with autism when he was 3-years-old, and the news came as a shock.

"By random chance I was the one that told him what he had when he was having a temper tantrum several years ago. I told him, hey look, here's what's going on. You have autism. I think it scared him at first," said John.

Like so many others, the Schneiders became advocates for their son.

In 2012, they launched Ben's Fund, and have raised more than $850,000 to date -- helping more than 500 families in Washington.

The couple says raising awareness still remains key to their mission.

"There was an instance this weekend where somebody said something... I was out with Ben and she made a comment about something he said," Traci said. "I walked up to her a little later when Ben wasn't around, and I said 'just so you know he has autism, and he said that because he's trying to feel good about himself.'"

"I'm not sure we're educated enough as a society to understand these kids and the wide spectrum of autism, and all their differences," John said.

There is no cure for autism, and we do not know what causes it. We do know that one in 68 children are diagnosed, and it is five times more common in boys than girls.

For kids on the spectrum, like Ben, fitting in socially can be a challenge.

"We hope for him, we just want him to have a friend at some point in time in middle school and high school. We just want him to find one friend he can connect with and share life with," said Traci.

But Ben does have his passions, like rock climbing and building things.

We asked them what advice they have for parents who may be struggling and might not have any answers yet.

"You have to listen to your gut, you need to be that advocate, that person to fight for what your child needs and no one knows your child like you do," said Traci.

John and Traci say at 13-years-old Ben has made strides and continues to inspire them.

"We've gone from putting Ben in bed at night without him saying or speaking... to this morning having him text Traci that he loves her," said John. "As a 7th grader that's amazing and just randomly coming up and giving me a hug, Traci and I looked at each other like 'woah!'"

For more information on Ben's Fund and the support they provide or to donate, click here.