Finger Eleven Guitarist Sees The Challenges Of Autism

By Karen Bliss 8/5/10 |

Finger Eleven has supported numerous causes over the rock band’s lengthy career but guitarist Rick Jackett’s personal choice is Autism Speaks Canada, for which he participates in Walk Now For Autism in Toronto. He has a young niece and nephew with the lifelong neurobiological disorder.

“One’s a severe case where she hasn’t spoken,” Jackett told Samaritanmag. “It’s definitely affected my family. People with autistic children have a much different life and a much harder challenge ahead of them because it’s not a disease that you can cure. They don’t even know what it is yet. They don’t know what causes it; they don’t know how to prevent it.  And you can’t see signs of it usually until they’re two or three years old because there’s no difference in physical appearance.”

Finger 11
Finger Eleven's Rick Jackett
According to the statistics listed on, one out of every 110 children will be diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, four times as many boys than girls (one in 70); autism is more prevalent than pediatric cancer, AIDS and diabetes combined and can cost $80,000 to $100,000 a year to treat a person. 

Jackett’s sister lives in North Bay, Ontario, where they are fewer cases of autism than there are in a big city like Toronto.  “She has a private worker who comes every day, but that’s just not the case in the rest of the country,” he says. “I have a friend in Toronto with an autistic child and it’s just horrible because they don’t have any systems set up.  They can’t go to school, but they can learn, but schools just aren’t set up [for it].

“But the biggest result from charity funding is you’re seeing a social system set up. That’s what’s starting to happen because it’s an alarming statistic. Autism is an epidemic. It’s happening more and more and I think the government didn’t know this was going to happen and weren’t ready for it. That’s where I think you’ll see a lot of the money being spent to try and set it up, but they’re so far behind.”

Autism Speaks, the founding organization in the United States, and Autism Speaks Canada is North America’s largest autism science, awareness and advocacy organization, dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families.

“The Toronto Walk [actually called Ontario Walk Now For Autism] is such a neat thing because it’s for everybody to get together and see everybody else’s family and how everybody’s getting through this,” Jackett says. “For me, it’s a family thing because [my sister and her family] come down and my parents go and we all go.”

Finger Eleven, as a band, has performed at charity events for autism and also put on its own benefit concerts, so Jackett’s bandmates haven’t joined him on a charity walk.  “They’re gracious enough to just donate lots of money so I’m like, ‘Great you’re off the hook.  I’ll get up at eight in the morning and go do it,’” he laughs.

Walk Now For Autism Speaks are held all over North America and the United Kingdom.  The Ontario walk was held in June, but there are two more in Canada this year, the Edmonton Capital Region Walk on September 12at Rudle Park and the BC Walk on the 26th at Nat Bailey Stadium.

On the U.S. site, there is an easy-to-use search engine where one can “find a walk” in your area. It also links to Canadian walks.

“Charity is always good if you are in a position to help people out, but this one [for me] is just because it’s so close to home,” says Jackett. “I would definitely be one of those people who doesn’t pay attention if it didn’t affect my family.”

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