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Young employee on the Autism Spectrum finds happiness in unusual job

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  • The subject of the last couple of posts has been on Autism-related events and organisations in the Canadian province of Ontario.

    To the southeast, Autism Support of Kent County (ASK) is a Grand Rapids, Michigan-based nonprofit that works to make life better and more productive for individuals affected by Autism, including children with Autism Spectrum Disorders...
    The Grand Rapids Children's Museum has, for years, made sure that the space is a safe and friendly place for all children, including those who are on the autism spectrum. Thanks to its autism-friendly programming, the museum has now been named one of the best places in all of Michigan for children on the spectrum.

    ...what about those children who struggle to interact with their peers and find some activities overly challenging or stimulating? ...The Grand Rapids Children's Museum has developed a collection of new programs geared toward serving families touched by autism and recently received the Autism Seal of Approval by the Autism Alliance of Michigan for its efforts to create a safe and welcoming space for individuals on the autism spectrum.

    According to Autism Speaks, a national autism advocacy society, "Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences." While you may have heard the term "on the spectrum," this phrasing can be a bit vague. Luckily, the nonprofit assists us with this language as well. "The term 'spectrum' reflects the wide variation in challenges and strengths possessed by each person with autism."

    Because children affected by autism can exhibit symptoms in so many different ways, parents can sometimes struggle to involve their children in community activities. "It is very important that families have places to go that are inclusive and understanding," says Pam Liggett, Executive Director of ...ASK...

    Dedicating its efforts toward children in Kent County on the autism spectrum, ASK provides more than $50,000 in programs and services every year to improve the lives of individuals and families living with the disorder. Part of this effort is the group’s involvement with the Grand Rapids Children's Museum's (GRCM) twice-annual Connor's Friends event. Held every year in the spring and fall, Connor's Friends is a free evening event held especially for families affected by autism. For more than a decade, the program has provided children with autism a chance to play and explore in the museum while feeling relaxed and at ease, with the event being particularly mindful that many individuals with autism can have difficulty processing and integrating sensory information or stimuli, such as sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and movement. There can also be a hypersensitive response to touch.

    "We dim the lights, we bring in special sensory pools [and] we usually have a music therapist," says Adrienne Brown, GRCM's director of communication and events. Designed to avoid sensory triggers for children on the spectrum and to allow families to meet and support one another, this event was named for museum board member Julie Wolf's grandchild, Connor Duke Sheppard, who was diagnosed with autism. Understanding that the museum, sometimes with hundreds of young kids running around and enjoying the various exhibits, can be overwhelming for some, the GRCM board and staff asked themselves, "What can we do to make it more comfortable?"

    The solution to create a private event for autism spectrum families quickly surfaced, and the GRCM held its first Connor's Friends event in 2006. In addition to dimming the lights and requiring pre-registration in order to cap the number of attendees, GRCM also creates visual barriers to eliminate distraction and designates quiet spaces, such as tents. All of these aspects are designed to allow children on the spectrum to enjoy all of the same exhibits that those without the disorder do on a daily basis—without the social anxiety and triggers that can often accompany crowds of children and parents.

    "ASK partnered with GRCM to give families with children with autism an opportunity to visit the museum in a relaxing, sensory-sensitive, and welcoming way," says Liggett. "We have hosted Connor's Night with them for six to seven years. Connor's Friends gives kids with autism a chance to have the GRCM to themselves. Activities are modified, exits are blocked, and many volunteers are on hand to work with the kids," she adds.

    For Marie Sly, mother of seven-year-old Ryan and ASK board member, the event was a unique opportunity to experience the museum without the pressure of the daily crowds. "It was awesome. It's such a good program," she says. The specialized environment of the evening also gave her other two children, ages three and four, a chance to interact with their older brother and enjoy the exhibits together. "It was a fun night. It was fun for our whole family," says Sly.

    Socializing and support is also a vital part of Connor's Friends. "We've had a lot of the same families that do attend year after year," says Brown. Forming relationships with other parents of children with autism, they are able to swap tips and share resources. ASK and the Autism Alliance of Michigan (AAoM), a statewide professional organization with a mission to make the “community safer and inclusive for families living with autism," according to AAoM President and CEO Colleen Allen, frequently attend Connor's Friends events. With these partnerships, GRCM brings in state experts to assist in recommendations for doctors, therapists or special programs. "A little bit of information goes a long way," says Allen.

    The organizations also share information about local special events, such as Celebration Cinema's Sensory Showtimes, movie screenings designed to accommodate children with special needs, including autism. "If you know where to look, there are a lot of events in the community for our families," says Sly, who is also the director of the West Michigan Special Hockey Association. The nonprofit aims to make hockey accessible for all children and specializes in those with cognitive or developmental disabilities. Currently, 35 of the children on her team have been diagnosed on the autism spectrum.

    In addition to Connor's Friends nights, GRCM designs much of its environment to be a "more inviting place for those that are on the spectrum," says Brown. "We really do it every day." As the museum has grown and evolved over the past two decades, the board and staff have continually considered children on the autism spectrum when shaping programs and the museum’s physical space. As GRCM underwent renovations and new coats of paint, staff would avoid primary colors and overwhelming, busy patterns on walls that can often be triggers.

    The museum also continually evolves its exhibits, incorporating sensory play on both floors and in most areas of the building. Exhibits that are particularly interesting and that can be soothing for those on the spectrum are the much-beloved bubbles, giant Lite Brite, and the textured wall tucked into the toddler area. Two times per week, the museum also hosts its Imagination Laboratory, daily art programs for all ages and abilities. Whether children in the lab are experimenting with water, dinosaur figurines or chickpeas, "it's always a sensory play activity," says Brown.

    On top of all this, the museum has recently incorporated special sensory kits available for free for any child that could utilize sensory assistance during their experience of the exhibits. In each kit, GRCM includes noise reduction headphones, a weighted vest or suspenders, a story guide with information about each exhibit, emotion flashcards, and fidget bracelets.

    These bags of goodies are available in three sizes and designed for children on the autism spectrum, but, of course, are for "any child that needs that extra support," says Brown. At no cost to check out, the kits are available at all times, and are somewhat akin to a Connor's Friends night in a bag.

    All of the museum's efforts have recently been recognized by the Autism Alliance of Michigan, which aims "to lead collaborative efforts across the state that will improve the quality of life for individuals with autism through education, comprehensive services, community awareness, inclusion efforts, and coordinated advocacy," according to the group’s website.

    On Jan. 30, GRCM received AAoM's second-ever Seal of Approval. "This award is given to businesses in Michigan who have demonstrated a conscious effort to accommodating and accepting individuals with autism," according to AAoM's website. The Grand Rapids museum is the first location in West Michigan, and the second in the entire state, to receive this designation. The Detroit Zoo received the organization's first Autism Seal in May 2016.

    After the ceremony hosted at the GRCM, "over 30 staff members and volunteers from the GRCM attended a two-hour safety training presentation from AAoM’s Safety Specialist Scott Schuelke," according to AAoM. This training and receiving the seal capped off a process that was years in the making, beginning with GRCM's initial exploration of autism-friendly programming as the museum developed Connor's Friends.

    "The reason the seal is important is because it's recognition for individuals and families that visit the museum…that there's some safety and some basic acceptance/awareness training that has happened there," says Allen. All of this dedication is designed "to make sure we're being as welcoming and as inclusive as we can, and as supportive as we can be for all of those families," says Brown.

    Though designing programs for children may seem like child's play, each kid, whether on the autism spectrum or not, experiences the world differently. This makes developing spaces and activities for children complex and challenging. At GRCM, staff and volunteers are doing their best on a daily basis to ensure that the museum is accessible to all, every day, and that, on a few nights of the year, those with autism can feel that the space is designed especially for them.

    For parents like Marie Sly, this special attention can make all the difference. "Any time that there are opportunities for our community to get out and have the same opportunities that other kids have, it's always a positive thing," she says. Because "the [autism] spectrum is so broad, every child is different," adds Sly.

    Due to this diversity and sometimes unpredictability of children on the autism spectrum, accessibility and understanding is vital. After seven years of raising a child with autism, Sly has learned that each individual with this diagnosis is unique. "When you've met one child with autism, you've met one child with autism," she says. "It just takes you getting to know the individual and what their triggers are."

    At GRCM, staff and volunteers continually train and practice these skills, working to make their space accessible to all.
    Here is a link to photos from this year's ASK Autism Walk in Grand Rapids, Michigan from about three months ago: https://www.facebook.com/pg/Autism-S...=page_internal

    [source: https://www.rapidgrowthmedia.com/fea...um-autism.aspx ]


    • The subject of the last post was Autism Support of Kent County (ASK), a Grand Rapids, Michigan-based nonprofit that works to make life better and more productive for individuals affected by Autism, including children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

      The Autism Alliance of Michigan is a Southfield Township, Michigan-based nonprofit whose core values are Advocacy, Diversity, Expertise, Innovation, Ownership, Compassion, and Collective Impact. The nonprofit leads efforts to raise expectations and expand opportunities for those affected by Autism, including children with Autism Spectrum Disorders...
      Join the Pistons for Autism Awareness Night on Sunday April 7 ... at 4pm. Families are invited to attend an on-court clinic to learn the basics of basketball from 8:30am-10:30am. Additionally, all packages include a t-shirt, post-game player meet and greet and one free ticket with the purchase of an additional ticket per order. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Autism Alliance of Michigan if you select AAoM in the drop-down menu.


      8:30AM-10:30AM – Basketball Clinic on Pistons Court
      10:30AM-2:30PM – Lunch/Explore Detroit on your own
      2:30PM – Doors Open to [the indoor stadium]
      4:00PM – [NBA Game] Tip-Off
      Post-Game – Meet and Greet

      Offer cannot be redeemed at LCA Box Office...
      Here is a link to a video from the Detroit Pistons Autism Awareness Day from a few years ago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GWIkkItctNA

      [source: https://autismallianceofmichigan.org/event/pistons/ ]


      • The subject of the last couple of posts has been on Autism-related events and organisations in the American state of Michigan.

        In the United Kingdom, Autism Hampshire is a Fareham, England-based nonprofit that is an independent, registered charity and has developed its services in response to growing need, providing practical and emotional support to those across the autism spectrum, including children...

        Here is a link to a video from Autism Hampshire from about a year ago: https://www.facebook.com/AutismHamps...8722064862948/

        [source: ]


        • The subject of posts in the last few days has mainly been on Autism-related events and organisations in the state of Michigan.

          The Copper Country Autism Awareness Foundation is an Upper Michigan-based nonprofit that helps those affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders, including children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. The nonprofit also promotes Autism awareness for the public...
          Children affected with autism spectrum disorders and their families will have a time to relax and enjoy themselves this Saturday at the third annual Family Fun Day.

          The event takes place from noon to 2 p.m. ...It is organized by Copper Country Autism Awareness...

          ...“We’re hoping to make it a more popular event,” said Mike Gillis, co-founder of Copper Country Autism Awareness.

          Children will have their choice of games such as bowling or miniature golf. Lights on arcade games and other features will be toned down or turned off to accommodate those children on the spectrum who can react badly to flashing lights. There also will still be an area set aside for quieter games.

          Gillis and his ex-wife Kathe Lanctot were inspired to found Copper Country Autism Awareness by a grandson with autism. While visiting the grandson in Florida, Lanctot said, she was struck by the variety of classroom resources available to autistic children.

          Coming back to the Copper Country, she found some of the same resources here, although they had been underpublicized, she said.

          ...Copper Country Autism Awareness’s website, ccautismawareness.org, includes links to information about autism as well as local resources.

          “We wanted to have a centralized location where anyone with an interest in autism can look to see what’s available in the area,” Lanctot said.

          [The event] can also lead to a more comfortable atmosphere, Gillis and Lanctot said...

          “... if the kid acts up, so what?” Gillis said.
          Here is a link to the nonprofit's 'fun day' event from about five years ago: https://www.facebook.com/pg/CCautism...=page_internal

          [source: https://www.mininggazette.com/news/l...this-saturday/ ]


          • The subject of posts in the last few days has mainly been on Autism-related events and organisations in the state of Michigan.

            To the south, Chicago is also home to an annual Walk for Autism Speaks, North America's leading Autism science and advocacy organisation...

            Stoneleigh Recovery Associates’ (SRA) employees volunteered at the 13th Annual Autism Speaks Chicago Walk May 14, 2016. SRA employees helped coordinate, setup, and man the registration desk for the more than 20,000 participants that came to walk. The three-mile walk [was] around the Chicago lakefront... The walk, hosted by the Chicago Chapter of Autism Speaks, raised over $800,000 in funds to “support vital research and top-quality programs” for those struggling with autism.

            SRA is proud to have been a part of this incredible event. Jesse Sanchez, SRA’s Vice Present of Business Development, has been volunteering with Autism Speaks for the past five years. This was Jesse’s forth year serving as the Logistics Chair for the Chicago Walk. Jesse recruited many SRA employees to volunteer with him. Autism Speaks Chicago Director, Mary Rios, said “Jesse Sanchez has been involved for many years and always brings his colleagues to lend a hand at the Walk. When we see his team we know things will be done and executed the right way. We are lucky to have him as a team player, motivator, go-to person and all around good guy helping us.”

            Jesse became involved with Autism Speaks when a family member had a child with autism. Jesse explained, “I came to this incredible community as a family member seeking support and guidance to do the best for my grand-nephew who lives with the Autism Spectrum Disorder. In the process of becoming involved, I have met many incredible people, many of whom autism impacts. The Walk, more than any other event Autism Speaks hosts, is special to me. It is the one-day a year when families like mine can proudly step out without fear of judgement and misunderstanding. I’m astounded to see that The Walk continues to grow bigger and better than before.” This year Jesse had the honor of being voted most valuable volunteer on walk day!

            “We are so proud of Jesse!!” stated Human Resources Manager Keanna Ringer, founder of SRA’s Charity Thursday program. She continued, “by taking a stand for what matters and showing that he cares Jesse, and the other SRA volunteers, help [those affected by Autism, including children] each day. Giving back to the community is one of SRA’s goals. We will continue to support and dedicate our time for great causes.” SRA is committed to fundraising, educating and spreading awareness to promote understanding about the differences that make each person unique...
            Here is a link to photos from this year's Autism Speaks Chicago Light It Up Blue event from almost half a year ago : https://www.facebook.com/pg/AutismSp...=page_internal

            [source: http://panoramalegal.com/2016/05/29/...-chicago-walk/ ]


            • The subject of the last post was Chicago, Illinois being home to an annual Walk for Autism Speaks, North America's leading Autism science and advocacy organisation.

              In the United Kingdom, Spectrum Autism Friendly Festival is an annual event held in Lea, Derbyshire, England in June each year...
              Spectrum Autism Friendly Festival returns for 2019!

              After an incredibly successful first Spectrum Festival in September 2018 and due to the huge demand for more than one Spectrum festival, organisers peaksGO are hosting multiple dates of the Spectrum Festival at Lea Green Centre in 2019.

              ...Popular activities at the 2018 event included the low ropes course, zip line, cooking classes, live entertainment and sensory areas.

              Organisers peaksGO are hosting these events at Lea Green Centre to raise awareness for Autism and provide support for people that need it. Activities on the days are suitable for a range of ages and abilities so the whole family can get involved!...
              Here is a link to photos from lat year's Spectrum Autism Friendly Festival in Derbyshire, United Kingdom: https://www.facebook.com/pg/spectrum...86471558564521

              [source: ]


              • The subject of recent posts has mainly been on Autism-related events and organisations in the American states of Michigan and Illinois.

                To the southeast, The 'one mile Autism Awareness of Rockingham County' event is an annual Eden, North Carolina-based walk that attempts to help those affected by Autism. This includes children with Autism Spectrum Disorders...
                ...T-shirts are guaranteed for participants registered by 08/07/2019

                Online registration ends 09/02/2019

                ...The race will start/finish in front of the Eden City Hall. Please pay careful attention to parking signs and barriers. Parking will be available at Central Elementary School ...To reduce the volume of traffic, please consider carpooling.

                Clockwork Race Timing & Kona Ice will be there.

                Gina Richardson will start us off with a great stretch and warm up at 8:00 AM

                ...[The] Fun Run/Walk is open to ALL ages (KIDS 5 AND UNDER ARE FREE)...
                Here is a link to a video on the recent Rockingham County, North Carolina Autism Walk: https://www.facebook.com/19110745955...2227635800911/

                [source: https://runsignup.com/Race/NC/Eden/5...ckinghamCounty ]


                • The subject of the last post was the 'one mile Autism Awareness of Rockingham County' event, an annual Eden, North Carolina-based walk that attempts to help those affected by Autism. This includes children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

                  The Arc of North Carolina is a Wake County, North Carolina-based nonprofit that attempts to improve the quality of life for individuals with various challenges, including children with Autism Spectrum Disorders...
                  Wings for Autism, a program that's designed to alleviate the stress that those with autism and other disabilities experience when flying, will make a stop at [North Carolina's] International Airport this month.

                  The program is set for 1 p.m., Aug. 19, at the airport and is open to those with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the Triangle and beyond. It's free and includes a lunch afterwards. [A number of organisations including] Allegiant Airlines ...and The Arc of NC are bringing the program to the [area.]

                  ...Because of limited space, one person with a disability is allowed to attend with up to one family member or support staff.

                  “It is such a privilege to be able to offer this rare opportunity to our families. Many of us take air travel for granted. It’s fantastic for us to be able to actualize this experience to support individuals with disabilities.” said The [Arc's] Executive Director Jennifer Pfaltzgraff in a press release. “I met a mom at a resource fair and when I told her about the event she cried! She shared with me that her child had never met his grandmother, who lived in Texas, because she was afraid to make that investment in case it didn’t work out. Now she is so excited to at least be able to expose her child to a big part of traveling.”

                  During the event, according to the description, participants will check in to receive their boarding passes, pass through the TSA security checkpoint, wait in the boarding area and board the aircraft.

                  The program will feature a presentation on the aircraft’s features, in-flight safety protocols and take-off procedures, according to the description. Wings for Autism also will give airport, airline, TSA professionals and other personnel the opportunity to observe, interact and deliver their services in a structured, learning environment.
                  Here is a link to photos from the Arc of North Carolina's Autism Airport dress-rehearsal event from last year:

                  [source: https://www.wral.com/wings-for-autis...ties/17761929/ ]


                  • The subject of posts in the last few days has mainly been on Autism-related events and organisations in the state of North Carolina.

                    To the south, Miami, Florida is also home to an annual Walk for Autism Speaks, North America's leading Autism science and advocacy organisation...

                    Here is a link to a video from this year's Autism Speaks Miami Walk from about four months ago: https://www.facebook.com/petlandpemb...8241264690218/

                    [source: ]


                    • The subject of a recent post was on a charity in the United Kingdom. Autism Hampshire is a Fareham, England-based nonprofit that is an independent, registered charity and has developed its services in response to growing need, providing practical and emotional support to those across the autism spectrum, including children...

                      Here is a link to a video from Autism Assistance Dogs Ireland: https://www.facebook.com/AutismAssis...7878778475534/

                      [source: ]


                      • The subject of a recent post was Miami, Florida being home to an annual Walk for Autism Speaks, North America's leading Autism science and advocacy organisation.

                        In northeast Florida, Jacksonville is also home to an annual Walk for Autism Speaks...
                        The 2nd Annual Friends With Autism 5K /Walk & Autism Month Kickoff will take place on Sunday, April 7, 2019 in Jacksonville, FL and we hope you will join us!!

                        RUN, WALK, STIM! Our 2nd annual Friends With Autism 5K/Walk is more than just a Run and a Walk - it's a fun time for the entire community to come together and raise awareness and acceptance for [those affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders, including children] in Northeast Florida! Join other families as we kickoff Autism Month with a health/resource fair, music, children's activities, speakers, and so much more!

                        When we raise awareness here... Funds raised will stay here! Funds raised will be returned to our community to provide direct services in the form of family grant support, community accessibility, and advocacy for local families and people with autism. The health/resource fair of this event is free to the public.

                        Help us raise awareness and acceptance for those on the autism spectrum!

                        ...Place: Northbank Riverwalk/Riverside Arts Market (RAM) 715 Riverside Ave, Jacksonville, FL 32204

                        Registration 5K/Walk Fees: REGISTRATION IS OPEN AT www.bit.ly.runwalkstim
                        5K 1 Mile Fun Run/Walk 12 and Under 1 Mile Fun Run/Walk 13 and Older
                        Through March 30th $25 $10 $20
                        March 30 - April 6 $30 $10 $20
                        Race Day $35 $10 $20
                        Race Day Schedule:
                        • 7:00 am Registration Opens
                        • 7:30 am Opening Ceremony
                        • 8:00 am 5K Starts
                        • 9:00 am Fun Run/Walk Starts
                        • 9:15 am Awards, Keynote Speaker Haley Moss, Performances and Community Resource Fair

                        Awards and Incentives:

                        Fundraising has its perks... Teams raising the minimum fundraising amounts receive a Friends With Autism grant to cover the cost of: school tuition, home school supplies/equipment/software, therapy, assistive technology, adaptive equipment, medical copays, medical services, summer camp, tutoring, and more!!

                        $2500 and up - $1,000
                        $1500 to $2499 - $500
                        $1000 to $1499 - $250

                        The top three school fundraising teams raising over $2,500 will receive a MS4A Deluxe Sensory Bags for their classrooms:
                        1st Place - 10 bags
                        2nd Place - 5 bags
                        3rd Place - 2 bags
                        Registration and race information can be found at www.bit.ly/runwalkstim.

                        Runner, Walker, and Fundraising Tools:
                        Friendship Kit available at www.bit.ly/fwa5k1.

                        Sponsors and Vendors:

                        We are currently accepting event sponsors and vendors for our community resource fair. Please contact Walk Coordinator at info@makingstridesforautism.orgfor a sponsor or vendor packet and information.

                        Run/Walk Chair and Volunteers:

                        ...Interested in volunteering or becoming a 5K/Walk Chair? Please contact Making Strides For Autism at info@makingstridesforautism.org.

                        Run & Walk Contact Info:

                        If you have any questions about the Walk, please contact the Walk Coordinator - Making Strides For Autism, Inc. at info@makingstridesforautism.org. Any questions about the 5K, please contact the Race Manager - 1st Place Sports at info@1stplacesportscom.

                        Race management provided by 1st Place Sports. www.1stplacesports.com...

                        Here is a link to photos from last year's Autism Speaks Jacksonville Walk: https://www.facebook.com/pg/AutismSp...=page_internal

                        [source: https://www.itsyourrace.com/event.aspx?id=10109]


                        • The subject of the last post was Jacksonville, Florida, being home to an annual Walk for Autism Speaks, North America's leading Autism science and advocacy organisation.

                          To the north, Atlanta is also home to an annual Autism Speaks Walk...
                          ...Vendors will be onsite with booths, tents, and giveaways; and all ages are welcome! A Quiet Zone will also be readily accessible for those with sensory sensitivities, creating a safe space for those who may feel overwhelmed.

                          ...Autism Speaks works to raise awareness of autism and how it so closely affects the hearts and lives of families around Atlanta and the country. So ...gather a team, and get ready to walk in support of such a great cause!
                          Here is a link to this year's Autism Speaks Atlanta Walk from over four months ago: https://www.facebook.com/DreamMakers...1580457409185/

                          [source: https://beckymorris.com/autism-speaks/]


                          • The subject of the last post was Atlanta, Georgia being home to an annual Walk for Autism Speaks, North America's leading Autism science and advocacy organisation.

                            The Autism Society of Georgia is a Fulton County, Georgia-based nonprofit that attempts to improve the quality of life for everyone touched by autism, including children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. The nonprofit strives every day to ensure that these children affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders can have a bright future...
                            On Saturday October 15, the Autism Society of Georgia will sponsor a Run for Autism. The Fun Run will start at 8:00 AM and the ... Run will start at 8:30 AM.

                            The events will be held at [a] theme park...

                            On the same day there will be a run in Kennesaw, and the following weekend there will be a third run in Augusta.

                            The Autism Society of Georgia is demonstrating their goal to build capacity in communities all over the state.

                            Many ...especially those in smaller communities, have to drive long distances to find the resources their loved one needs...
                            Here is a link to a video to the Autism Walk in Kennesaw, Georgia from about three years ago: https://www.facebook.com/autismsocie...8089956209777/

                            [source: http://valdostatoday.com/living/2016...un-for-autism/]
                            Last edited by Visionary7903; 09-14-2019, 11:46 PM.


                            • The subject of a recent post was Miami, Florida being home to an annual Walk for Autism Speaks, North America's leading Autism science and advocacy organisation.

                              Autism Speaks of South Florida is a Miami, Florida-based nonprofit that serves all communities in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Lee and Collier Counties...
                              Children on the autism spectrum were treated to an adventure on the ice as the Florida [NHL team] partnered up with South Florida Ford to support Autism Speaks Night in honor of World Autism Awareness Day.

                              Jakob Raab, a local youth with autism, was honored ...[and] got the opportunity to meet the players in the locker room and participate in the game-opening puck drop. He also had the honor of signing his own contract with the [team].

                              “I really liked the contract with my name on it,” he said, smiling. “I’m going to get it signed and it’s going to be awesome. My favorite part was wearing the hockey helmet, wearing the gloves and getting a hockey stick. It’s like being a star.”

                              The [Florida NHL team] must have been inspired as the team defeated the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals 5-3 at the BB&T Center in [Broward County]. A designated suite was provided for several families of the autism community. After the Panthers victory, players Jonathan Huberdeau and Mike Matheson came to the suite to sign autographs and take pictures with the young fans.

                              Allan Youngman, chairman of South Florida Ford, joined Raab and other members of the autism community and presented an $85,000 check to Autism Speaks of South Florida.
                              Here is a link to a video from the Florida NHL team's Autism Awareness night from earlier this year: https://www.facebook.com/southflorid...8935339294750/

                              [source: https://www.sun-sentinel.com/sports/...501-story.html]


                              • The subject of recent posts has mainly been on Autism-related events and organisations in the southeastern United States.

                                The Howard County Autism Society (HCAS) is a Baltimore metropolitan area, Maryland-based nonprofit that serves those affected by Autism, including children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. The nonprofit attempts to do this by providing information, support, and advocacy; and by promoting awareness of autism that values the dignity and uniqueness of each child...
                                As Columbia resident Deborah Clutts prepares for her 17-year-old son's transition into adulthood, she said she is encountering challenges she didn't face when her older daughter graduated from high school.

                                "With the typical student getting ready to graduate, although the parents may have some degree of involvement, there is a natural evolution to independence," she said. "With a student with a disability, there is a planning process that needs to take place to assist that student to whatever degree they need in transitioning into adulthood."

                                Clutts's son, Matthew, was diagnosed with autism at age 3 and will graduate from Kennedy Krieger High School next year.

                                "The path isn't as clear," she said.

                                That's why it's so important to start planning early, said Patrick Boxall, vice president of the [HCAS], which is co-hosting its third annual symposium on the transition to adulthood this Saturday.

                                Under Maryland law, individuals with disabilities are eligible for publicly-funded special education and certain wrap-around services until they graduate high school or reach age 21. Then, Boxall said, their support system changes.

                                "That's difficult for many ... to get their heads around," he said. Boxall has two sons who both attend [high school] and have autism.

                                "Working with a student with a disability, living with these students brings its own challenges that make it very difficult as a practical matter to focus on the future," he said.

                                This year's symposium, which is co-hosted by the [HC] government and school system, is titled "Stop Waiting and Start Planning," and aims to get parents and caretakers to engage with transition planning as soon as possible. It is open to all youth with developmental disabilities and their guardians, not only for those affected by autism.

                                Based on the school system's enrollment numbers, Boxall estimates that approximately 375 special education students leave high school in the county each year.

                                "I'm optimistic that we're going to get a real cross-section of the county," he said.

                                Guardians at the symposium will hear from guest speakers about the various areas in which their children may need support.

                                "Parents are interested in housing, transportation, recreation and employment," said Clutts, who has volunteered with the Howard County Autism Society for 14 years and is on its transition committee. "Employment is a big source of concern."

                                Unlike the average young adult, people with [various challenges, including Autism Spectrum Disorders] may need coaching to learn the tasks required of them at a job, she said, and they will likely need help finding a job in the first place...

                                Steve Elville of the [local] law firm Elville and Associates ...will speak to caregivers about whether they should apply for guardianship after their children become adults.

                                "Parents are often told that they need to have guardianship by well-meaning people, but they don't necessarily need to," Elville said. "For high-functioning children, there is no need for it because they can sign powers of attorney and advanced medical directives."

                                New at the symposium this year is a track for youth with disabilities, to be directed by Accessible Resources for Independence Inc., a business that helps people with disabilities to maximize their independence.

                                "We got into this coming from that viewpoint of getting to these youth before they've exited to help them think about building skills and a plan," said the business' executive director, Katie Collins-Ihrke. "This transitional age is very important because after they're done with the school system, they may or may not have support in the adult world."

                                Student participants will learn independent living skills, from maintaining healthy relationships ...to voting and advocating for themselves.

                                "In your childhood, your youth, your parents do a lot of talking for you," Collins-Ihrke said. "When you're an adult, you're expected to speak for yourself, and expressing yourself effectively is key."

                                Here is a link to photos of the HCAS Walk and Run from almost two years ago: https://www.facebook.com/pg/HowardCo...=page_internal

                                [source: https://www.baltimoresun.com/marylan...315-story.html]


                                • The subject of the last post was the Howard County Autism Society (HCAS), a Baltimore metropolitan area, Maryland-based nonprofit that serves those affected by Autism, including children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. The nonprofit attempts to do this by providing information, support, and advocacy; and by promoting awareness of autism that values the dignity and uniqueness of each child.

                                  Staying in the area, the 2019 Washington, DC Walk for Autism Speaks will be held in just a couple of weeks. The event is to raise funds for North America's leading Autism science and advocacy organisation...

                                  Here is a link to a video on the upcoming event: https://www.facebook.com/AutismSpeak...1526455211999/

                                  [source: ]


                                  • The subject of the last couple of posts has been on Autism-related events and organisations in the northeastern United States.

                                    The Arc Jefferson - St. Lawrence is a northern New York state-based nonprofit association dedicated to full inclusion & integration for persons with various challenges, including children with Autism Spectrum Disorders...
                                    ...Autism Awareness Walk raised $15,000.

                                    [Many] walkers and volunteers met Saturday morning in [the] village park for the 12th annual walk to benefit the [nonprofit]...

                                    Jeff Cole once again had the honor of hosting the event and seeing many friends.

                                    The proceeds will help the [nonprofit] support [those in the local area] who are on the autism spectrum and also help provide educational resources for [those close to anyone affected by Autism.]

                                    This year, a large donation came in from the ...Motorcycle Riding Club for $855.

                                    The [nonprofit] wants to thank the [local] men's hockey team; 30 of them helped set up around 7 a.m. and then [pack up] hours later. When the walk needed someone to help do face painting for the kids, the team stepped up and got the job done.

                                    This year’s theme was story book characters and it was great to see many participants dressed up. Congratulations to the community for a great fundraiser.
                                    Here is a link to a video on the nonprofit's recent Autism Awareness Walk from last Saturday: https://www.facebook.com/thearcjslc/...8719398067841/

                                    [source: https://www.wwnytv.com/2019/09/16/au...walk-raises-k/]


                                    • The subject of the last few posts has been on Autism-related events and organisations in the northeastern United States.

                                      To the southeast, the Clay County Autism Awareness is a Manchester, Kentucky-based nonprofit that attempts to raise awareness about Autism in Clay County and surrounding counties...
                                      [Many] walked through Manchester in the name of Autism Friday night.

                                      ...Ethan Bowman is 5 years old, and blue is his favorite color. Ethan also has Autism. His parents, Jessalynn and Kevin Bowman say the past few years have not been easy. The Bowman family is just one of the many families in Clay County affected by autism. So three years ago they began the Clay County Autism Awareness Walk.

                                      The 1.1 mile walk ended at the Rawlings/Stinson Park, where there was a little food and of course some fun for the kids. ...The Bowman family says they just want to help those who are going through the same thing.

                                      All proceeds will go to benefit those affected by autism throughout the county. This is the third autism awareness walk in Clay County, and organizers expect to have an even bigger crowd next year.
                                      Here is a link to photos from the Clay County Autism Awareness Walk from about six years ago:

                                      [source: www.wkyt.com/wymt/home/headlines/Thousands-participate-at-Autism-Awareness-Walk-204964331.html]


                                      • The subject of recent posts has mainly been on Autism-related events and organisations in the northeastern United States.

                                        Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is another city in the northeast that is home to an annual Walk for Autism Speaks. Autism Speaks, dedicated to promoting solutions for the needs of individuals with autism and their families, funds research, leads state and federal advocacy, and provides resources, including free tool kits covering everyday challenges – including early-childhood diagnosis...
                                        The year 22-year-old Jordan McCloud was born, three other children were also welcomed into the large, extended family of his parents, Patti and Mark McCloud.

                                        It was clear that Jordan was developing the slowest. It was nine months before he could sit up, and when he crawled he used his arms and legs to drag himself instead of his hands and knees like a typical crawl. He did not walk on his own until he was 18 months old.

                                        Doctors characterized Jordan’s problems as simple developmental delays.

                                        But by 3½ years of age, Jordan’s lack of language, his repetitive behavior, his inability to play appropriately with toys, along with other markers led to a diagnosis of autism.

                                        On June 9, Ms. McCloud ...a board member of the Western Pennsylvania Chapter of Autism Speaks, will be one of a projected 2,000 participants in the chapter’s 20th annual Autism Speaks Walk at Flagstaff Hill in Schenley Park...

                                        [The] walk will be held rain or shine...

                                        “We support the service providers in our community through a grants program, information, resources, and referrals,” said Amy Logston, executive director of the local chapter...

                                        All services are free.

                                        Team McCloud will consist of 15 to 25 friends, family, and co-workers wearing T-shirts they made... Ms. McCloud already has raised almost $1,000 through a Facebook post.

                                        ...Last year, $415,000 was raised by the Schenley Park walk. This year’s goal is $453,000.

                                        Another participating family will be Mark and Barbara Wallace with son Matthew, often called Matty, and 100 to 150 volunteer “Marchers for Matty.”

                                        The team has raised more than $250,000 in 19 years of walking in recognition of Matty Wallace, 26, who has profound or low functioning autism. The designation is at the severe end of the autism spectrum, and characterized with extensive impairments.

                                        “The burden of people with profound autism is they just can’t take care of themselves,” said Mr. Wallace, a social studies teacher at Gateway High School, and whose students and former students also walk for Team Matty.

                                        For his first 12 months, Matty hit all of the developmental milestones. But at 18 months, there was social and language regression.

                                        He has never spoken. He cannot read or write, and must be helped with washing, shaving, and other daily tasks.

                                        “We know he knows us, but not how much,” said Mr. Wallace, of Pitcairn.

                                        Ms. Logston said at any time a parent can contact the Autism Speaks’ Autism Response Team, which answers calls and emails in both English and Spanish from those looking for resources and guidance.

                                        “The biggest thing is to get it diagnosed early and with early intervention,” said Stephanie Provenzano, manager, field development, for the Western Pennsylvania Chapter.

                                        Not only has treatment for autism evolved over the years, she said, but it has become customized. “Every person has an individual plan,” she said.

                                        For Jordan McCloud, who is intellectually disabled, the journey began at 2½ years old with early intervention at home, preschool and elementary school.

                                        “Kindergarten through fifth grade was just incredible. As much as possible they would integrate him for music, library, gym class with other students, who were wonderful,” Ms. McCloud said.

                                        In 2017, Jordan graduated from the Pressley Ridge School for Autism on the North Side. Ms. McCloud works as a family support coordinator...

                                        Today, Jordan, who does not speak, attends daily [a prevocational employment center] with the hope of learning something he can do for employment.

                                        “He smiles going in and coming out,’’ Ms. McCloud said.

                                        Jordan is low-functioning on the autism spectrum, requiring assistance with daily living skills. Because he does not understand social rules, and has no concept of safety rules, he must be accompanied at all times.

                                        “It is a true family affair when it comes to Jordan’s care,” Ms. McCloud said. “I and his father share custody, and while Jordan lives with me, he loves spending time with his father. Jordan’s sister, Nicole, is also very involved with his daily activities when home from college.

                                        “We may have challenges with Jordan, but ...Because of him, I have grown tremendously...” she said.

                                        For Matty Wallace, who also has epilepsy, his schooling from ages 5 to 21 was in autism-supported classrooms in the Gateway School District. There he learned skills like turning lights on and off, bringing things, and color-sorting items.

                                        Today, aides assist him seven days a week through a federal- and state-funded program. Aides also review the 160 signs in sign language that he utilizes.

                                        Life skills are worked on in the family’s remodeled basement with kitchenette and handicap-accessible bathroom.

                                        Despite challenges, Matty volunteers for Meals on Wheels and the Pittsburgh Food Bank; shreds paper at Monroeville Public Library; and delivers books to nursing homes...

                                        “He has made us better people. I have learned patience and to be a fighter for him. I never imagined that he could have such a full day,” Mrs. Wallace said.

                                        Registration for the Autism Speaks Walk on June 9 in Schenley Park opens at 9 a.m. Opening ceremonies are at 10 a.m., followed by the walk...
                                        Here is a link to photos from the last Autism Speaks Pittsburgh Walk from almost a year ago: https://www.facebook.com/pg/autismsp...=page_internal

                                        [source: https://www.post-gazette.com/local/r...s/201903070002]


                                        • The subject of recent posts has mainly been on Autism-related events and organisations in the northeastern United States.

                                          Autism Speaks New Jersey hosts an annual Shore Walk in The Great Lawn 100 Ocean Ave. North Long Branch. The event is a fundraiser for Autism Speaks, North America's leading Autism science and advocacy organisation...
                                          More than 1,500people, including individuals with autism, their families and friends, joined together in the rain on Saturday, October 11th for the New Jersey Shore Walk Now for Autism Speaks and 5K at the Great Lawn in Long Branch. The Walk has thus far raised $210,000 in pledges, all of which will support Autism Speaks’ work, both locally and nationally, to increase awareness about autism, fund innovative autism research and family services, and advocate for the needs of individuals with autism and their families in Princeton and beyond.

                                          ...“We are incredibly grateful to our remarkable families, volunteers, sponsors and staff, who once again worked so hard to make this year’s Walk a huge success and a wonderful day for our community even in the rain,” said Amanda Laughlin, Walk Co-Chair. “The money raised, and the awareness generated, are critical to Autism Speaks’ efforts to improve the lives of people with autism and their families.”

                                          In addition to its national science and advocacy work, Autism Speaks has made a significant impact in the Shore area. The organization has provided funding to the MRESC Aquatics and Fitness Center through its Swimming and Water Safety ... Fund.

                                          For the eighth consecutive year, Toys“R”Us® and Babies“R”Us® proudly serve as the national sponsors of Walk Now for Autism Speaks. Toys“R”Us® is also the largest corporate partner of Autism Speaks. Since the partnership began in 2007, Toys“R”Us® has helped Autism Speaks receive more than$18 million through in-store and online fundraising campaigns, donations from both the Toys“R”Us® Children’s Fund and Toys“R”Us®, Inc. and the efforts of employees who volunteer to raise additional funds at Walk Now for Autism Speaks events across the country.

                                          Additional Walk and 5K sponsors include Xerox, Bob’s Discount Furniture, My Solar Home, FedEx, Meridian Health, Two River Bank, Shrewsbury Pediatric Dentistry, and 94.3 The Point...
                                          Here is a link to photos from the beginning of the latest Autism Speaks New Jersey Shore Walk from just yesterday: https://www.facebook.com/AutismSpeak...8651909740417/

                                          [source: http://www.ahherald.com/newsbrief/258-monmouth-county/18622-jersey-shore-walk-now-for-autism-speaks-raises-$210,000]


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