Monday, May 25, 2009

Ernie Els: I want to find the causes of autism

From The Times

To the outside world he seems to have it all. He is one of the world’s great golfers, has a multimillionaire’s lifestyle, lives with his young family in beautiful houses in England, South Africa and the United States, and travels the world in his private jet.

But one day, two years ago, the world fell in on Ernie Els — or so he thought at the time. The South African was told by doctors that his son, Ben, who was 5 at the time, was autistic. And life for Els and his wife Liezl was about to change for ever.

Yet after a period of deep reflection, and not a little self-pity, Els is devoting much of his energy into promoting research and raising public awareness of the condition. “It’s like an epidemic,” Els says. “It’s a complete mystery.”

Last week at Wentworth Golf Club in Surrey, where he was competing in the BMW PGA Championship, Els, 39, talked at length about Ben’s condition.

As the winner of three major championships, including the Open in 2002, he knows that he is lucky to be able to fund intensive treatment and care for his son — in fact he has moved his family to America, where there are private schools for autistic children — but he is also determined to help others less fortunate than himself.

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