Brian Krueger is a senior lab tech with McCormick's Flavor Manufacturing Center in Hunt Valley, MD. Hes been a McCormick employee for 18 years.
It was November of 2005. Brian Krueger and his wife Wendy had just taken their son Nicholas to his two-year-old wellness visit at the pediatrician. Nicholas, at two-years-old, had about 50 words that he could form into sentences, made direct eye contact and was growing at a normal rate.
But just a few weeks after that visit, Brian and Wendy noticed something different about their son. Their talkative, attentive toddler was losing words and stopped making eye contact. Nicholas soon began stimming, which is short for self-stimulatory behavior (this term is used to describe specific behaviors like hand-flapping and spinning).
Brian and Wendy took him back to the pediatrician, who immediately referred them to Kennedy Kreiger Institute, where Nicholas was diagnosed with regressive autism. This means Nicholas started to develop at a normal rate, but after age two, any progress he made would be reversed. Today, 16-year-old Nicholas is still non-verbal and fluctuates academically because of his regressive nature.
Involvement with Autism Speaks
Immediately after he heard that Nicholas has autism, Brian began doing research. "I knew nothing about autism when he was diagnosed," says Brian. "What do you really know about something when it hasn't impacted you?"
He came across Autism Speaks, an organization dedicated to advancing global awareness of autism, research and treatments for autism spectrum disorders and related conditions. According to their website, they do this through increasing global understanding and acceptance, advancing breakthroughs in autism research, expanding early childhood screening and intervention, improving the transition to adulthood, and ensuring access to reliable information across the lifespan. Brian joined the National Capital Area Chapter, which serves all communities in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC, and found solace in resources like Autism Speaks tool kits, which offer information, research and trips for different audiences (parents, people with autism, educators, etc. ), various age ranges and levels of support.
Right around that time, Brian heard an ad for the Baltimore Autism Speaks Walk on the radio. Almost immediately, he put together Nick's Beehive, a Walk team made up of family and friends (it's now named Team McCormick). McCormick has donated $2,500 toward the team every year and has sponsored the Baltimore Autism Speaks Walk since 2014.
While Brian has led a team at the Baltimore Autism Speaks Walk every year since 2006, hes involved in other ways as well, like reviewing grant applications and speaking with potential sponsors.
But overall, Brian's goal for his work with Autism Speaks is simple: to teach people to be more accepting of those with autism.
"I've learned that people in the community are aware of autism and they know that its a medical condition, but there's where their knowledge stops," says Brian. "I would love for people to dive deeper and to have a little more acceptance. People with autism might act different, and that's not dangerous."
The next Baltimore Autism Speaks Walk is being held on Sunday, October 6, 2019 at Johnny Unitas Stadium at Towson University. Click here for more information on how to join or donate to the McCormick team.
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