John Bartus

Autism is on the rise. Once a condition that affected only one in 10,000 children, autism today affects an estimated one in 36 children. One in 45 adults have autism. According to the Mayo Clinic, autism is a serious developmental disorder that impairs the ability to communicate and interact. The range and severity of symptoms can vary widely. Common symptoms include difficulty with communication, difficulty with social interactions, obsessive interests and repetitive behaviors. A diagnosis of autism often used to mean a life sentence of seriously reduced functionality and likely institutionalization.

Jill Campbell knows this all too well. Jill’s story goes like this: “Our son, Craig, was diagnosed with autism at two and a half years old. We knew nothing about autism, except for ‘Rain Man.’ Little did we know that it would soon consume every day of our lives. The diagnosis was devastating and the prognosis was no better. We were told that Craig would never speak (even though he had developed 20-30 words by the age of about 20 months and then lost all speech), and that he would never play with other children or be potty-trained. The doctor continued to say that we should try not to medicate him for as long as we could, and to be prepared for institutionalization. When the shock wore off, we prayed and prayed and we went online and started researching.”

Jill’s research led her to a group of families who all faced the same issue. Knowing that her family wasn’t alone helped her deal with the struggles that were to come. As Jill stated, “This has been the greatest resource we’ve found — you have an instant bond and connection with these people because they understand what you’re going through.” Jill founded the Autism Society of the Keys (ASK) to be a resource for her and the many other local families impacted by this condition.

Doing the research needed to help Craig, Jill discovered so much about autism. According to the Autism Science Foundation, “Autism is highly heritable (and) there are many genetic and environmental factors involved with autism. These include both rare and common variants. About 15% of cases of autism can be linked to a specific gene mutation.” The insidious nature of autism can seemingly turn a normal child into one who suddenly develops symptoms like non-responsiveness, avoiding eye contact, repetitive movements or other unusual behavior. 

There is hope. Early intervention and treatment can do wonders and work miracles. Early recognition, as well as behavioral, educational and family therapies may reduce symptoms and support development and learning. Jill’s son, Craig, overcame those early predictions and is now a college student with a job and a girlfriend. He speaks with a large vocabulary and has a relatively normal functional life. Most of the credit for that goes to Craig’s parents and their unceasing efforts to find help and not lose hope. 

That’s why Jill created the Autism Society of the Keys. Parents of autistic children face a daunting challenge — no two cases are alike and no two treatments are the same. But ASK can help steer parents in the right direction and help them not to lose hope.

As Jill puts it, “Too many parents feel like there’s nowhere to turn. You’ve been devastated by the news that ‘your child has autism, we don’t know how they get it, and there’s no cure or proven treatment for it.’ We are here to tell you that these things are just not true!” Her optimism is inspiring as she continues, “There are thousands of children out there that are living proof. They are recovering, getting into mainstream schools, and losing the diagnosis of autism altogether!”

As April is Autism Awareness Month, it’s fitting to celebrate Jill Campbell and her efforts to help other families facing the same situation. To find out more, or to even donate to the cause, visit As autism continues to rise in our children, a resource like ASK really can make miracles possible.

John Bartus
Very few towns or cities could ever claim that their Mayor was a smokin' hot guitar player. The island city of Marathon in the Florida Keys is one of those towns. While politics is a temporary call to service, music is a life sentence. John Bartus, a more-than-four-decade full-time professional musician, singer, and songwriter, continues to raise the bar with his groundbreaking solo acoustic show. It’s easy to catch John on one of his more than 200 shows a year throughout the Keys on his Perpetual Island Tour. His CD releases include After The Storm, Keys Disease 10th Anniversary Remaster, and Live From the Florida Keys Vol. 2. John’s music is available wherever you download or stream your music.