Autism Speaks: Start Listening
For our EverydayFamily CARES spotlight, we want to share with our readers some amazing nonprofit organizations with a heart for empowering children and families; groups which recognize that a child is not defined by his or her diagnosis, but rather, as a precious little individual with gifts and dreams who just happens to have a medical condition or disability. By providing compassionate and expert medical services in their respective specialty areas along with camps, extracurricular activities, and support services, these groups lift minds, bodies, and spirits. Whether you are the parent of a child who can benefit from the services of one of these groups, or a parent with a heart to engage your family in volunteering or donating, these organizations may be of interest to you.
We were lucky enough to have the honor and privilege of interviewing Julie Reyes, who shared her expertise and passion for Autism Speaks. Julie Reyes is the Director of the Early Autism Project Tampa clinic operations, including supervision of Board Certified Behavior Analysts, and serves as a military and community liaison. Reyes served as the 2014 Volunteer Chairwoman for Walk Now for Autism Speaks – Tampa Bay. We would like to extend our appreciation to Julie Reyes for taking the time to share with our readers about the fine work of Autism Speaks and how families can get involved and access services and support.
EF: What is the mission of Autism Speaks?
Julie Reyes: “The mission of Autism Speaks is threefold; Research, Awareness, and Advocacy. Autism Speaks is the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization that is 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. Founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism, Autism Speaks, since it's inception has committed over $173 million to research and developing innovative resources for families.”
EF: What kind of research does Autism Speaks support?
Julie Reyes: “Current research initiatives include; early access to care, global autism public health, environmental factors in autism, genetics and genomics, risk in high risk baby sibs, toddler treatment networks, and translational research. To learn more about these initiatives go to: www.autismspeaks.org/science/initiatives”
EF: What type of services and support does Autism Speaks provide for children and parents?
Julie Reyes: “Autism Speaks has a Family Services team which is dedicated to providing information and resources to improve the outcome of children, adolescents, and adults affected by autism. These great resources can be found online on the Autism Speaks’ website which contains more than 45,000 local resources from across the country in 75 categories, from developmental pediatricians to after-school programs. They have a great interactive map to help parents find resources and services in their local area.
They have also developed a set of Family Services Tool Kits, which provide helpful information, including our 100 Day Kit for newly diagnosed families and a similar Asperger Syndrome/High Functioning Autism Kit. The Transition Tool Kit serves as a guide to assist families on the journey from adolescence to adulthood and our School Community Toolkit assists members of the school community in understanding and supporting students with autism. There are also grant programs for individuals and community programs; the Baker Summer Camp, Family Services Community grants, Autism Cares and Technology grants.
For more help contact the Autism Response Team (ART) these team members are specially trained to connect families with information, resources and opportunities. Call 888-288-4762 or en Español 888-772-9050, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.”
EF: What types of events do they sponsor?
Julie Reyes: “Autism Speaks' signature fundraising and awareness event, Walk Now for Autism Speaks, is the nation's largest grassroots autism walk program that takes place in more than 95 cities across North America and Canada. These family friendly fun walks are planned, coordinated, and executed by volunteers, families with loved ones on the autism spectrum, and local businesses and community partners. The walk events not only generate money needed for autism research but also raise awareness about the increasing prevalence of autism and the need for increased research funding to combat this complex disorder.
In December 2007, the United Nations declared April 2 World Autism Awareness Day so on this day, April 2nd, Autism Speaks promotes Light It Up Blue global World Autism Awareness Day. This campaign continues to grow at a rapid pace (in 2012, nearly 2,000 iconic structures, buildings and landmarks in over 220 U.S. cities and 28 countries around the world participated and by shining a bright light on autism). Among the structures were the Empire State Building, Sydney Opera House, and Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil.
Another local example of an Autism Speaks event has been our “Day at the Rays” here in Tampa Bay. This year the Rays hosted the 3rd Autism Speaks Day at an afternoon’s game against Seattle Mariners. This year's event was our largest to date, attended by more than 500 friends of Autism Speaks. Pre-game on field activity kicked off with a check presentation for $6,500 by The Rays to Autism Speaks volunteer leadership and staff. Sean Rodriguez, Rays shortstop and his wife, Giselle, parents of a child on the autism spectrum joined the Autism Speaks group for the activity.”