September 11, 2012  By FRED SWEGLES | OC REGISTER

OC Couple Help Autism Group That Helped Them

Dylan McIlvain, 12, and his parents, Pat and Stephanie, are pictured on vacation in Hawaii. The San Clemente family has tackled many challenges since Dylan was diagnosed with autism when he was 20 months old.

Stephanie and Pat McIlvain of San Clemente were devastated when they learned their 20-month-old son, Dylan, had autism. But today, at age 12, Dylan is talkative, athletic and dealing with his challenges, they say.

The McIlvains say they want people to know there is hope for families touched by autism. That’s why they support the nonprofit Talk About Curing Autism, which they say helped them learn to face their situation, make the best of it and celebrate small triumphs.

What: Ante Up for Autism
When: 5 p.m. Sept. 22
Where: The Ritz-Carlton, Dana Point
Why: Raise funds for Talk About Curing Autism
How: Tournament poker and live and silent auctions
Co-hosts: Actor Johnathon Schaech and singer Kate Voegele
Tickets: $250 and up Information: anteupforautism.org

Six years ago, the McIlvains were instrumental in starting TACA’s biggest annual fundraiser, “Ante Up for Autism.” The 2012 event is coming to The Ritz-Carlton resort in Dana Point on Sept. 22, featuring tournament poker, live and silent auctions, celebrity appearances and tips from poker professionals.

TACA raised a reported $250,000 at last year’s event, with the money earmarked to help autism-affected families who might otherwise feel they have nowhere to turn.

A study released in March by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that an average of one in 88 8-year-olds in 14 U.S. study sites in 2008 had the developmental disorder, which affects social, communication, motor and language skills. That was 23 percent higher than a CDC study for 2006.

The McIlvains said TACA provided support in a positive atmosphere, guiding them to available resources, education options and treatments.

Today, “Dylan is a bright, happy kid who likes to ride bikes, go to amusement parks, movies and play on (his) computer,” Pat McIlvain said. “He still has trouble in social situations and communicating his feelings. We continue to push him at home and challenge him every day. It’s hard to watch him struggle sometimes. He has to work twice as hard to get half as far sometimes.”

Dylan McIlvain of San Clemente poses during a Hawaiian vacation with Tess, “his dog in Hawaii.”

Dylan’s mother, Stephanie, said he “will never be typical. He’ll always have to have a support system. We are realistic about that now … not living in a dream world … realizing that this is what we’ve been given.

“We’ll take the tools that we’ve been taught and apply that to everyday living with Dylan.” The McIlvains work at Oakley in Foothill Ranch, which has hosted several TACA fundraisers. The effort grew into Ante Up for Autism when the McIlvains introduced TACA to a former Oakley employee, Greg Schwartz, who has a nephew with autism and contacts in celebrity poker. Oakley also makes TACA-edition sunglasses – $20 from every pair sold goes to TACA, Pat McIlvain said.

“Attitude means a lot … you have to remember autism is a marathon and not a sprint,” he said. “Don’t flame out and drop off. I’ve learned things from autism and my family that help me in the
business world and vice versa. I wouldn’t trade my life or family for anything.”

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