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For Kids With Autism, a Day at the Races With NASCAR
Date:5/31/2013

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, May 31 (HealthDay News) -- In one key way, Brandon Brooking is like millions of other 16-year-old American boys: He loves NASCAR.

But Brandon is also affected by autism, making it a bit tougher to enjoy the speedway sport up close.

"Like many people with autism, Brandon focuses on one thing -- and for Brandon that thing is racing," said Melissa Brooking, Brandon's mom. "My husband is a NASCAR fan, and for Brandon it started about four or five years ago. There's just something about it he loves. He can't write his name or read, but he knows everything about every single person involved in car racing -- the flagmen, the crew, the drivers."

The trouble is, she said, "We never tried to take him to an actual race, because we knew it'd be way beyond what he can handle. The noise and the crowds -- it would just create a lot of anxiety and could turn into him getting really upset. So he watches it at home."

But that will change June 3 when the Brookings go as a family -- Brandon included -- to the second-annual autism-friendly Day at the Races NASCAR rally at Dover Motorsports in Dover, Del., about a three-hour drive from the Brooking's home in Pennsylvania.

"When one day last year I saw online that [advocacy group] Autism Speaks was doing an autism-friendly day with NASCAR, I was ecstatic," Melissa said. "'I said, 'I don't care if we gotta sell the house! We are going!'"

In June 2012, the whole family attended the first such event, also called the FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks, in recognition of FedEx's title sponsorship of the event.

Last year's track-side gathering of 135 special-needs spectators marked the first time NASCAR and Autism Speaks joined forces to make the "sensory overload" that is car racing accessible to children with autism and their families.

Collaborating with race broadcaster Fox Sports and Dover Motorsports Inc., the all-
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