The national spotlight on autism as a result from the increase in prevalence, has produced an overall increase of awareness as well. However, we are finding that even though people are more aware of autism, there is still a general lack of understanding around what that really means to the individual or their family. We understand that without truly understanding, some may find it difficult to accept, encourage, and appreciate.
Our vision for our community is to be a place where
all touched by autism are empowered to live without limits. Where every
individual and their family is greeted with encouragement, embraced with
understanding, presented with opportunities, and appreciated as valuable
members of society.
In our journey to realize our vision, we began reaching out to community leaders, service providers, and other willing partners in the community, by asking them to work with us. We encouraged them to learn about autism, learn about our families, and learn what each person can accomplish given the right supports and tools. Ultimately, we asked them to embrace working together, acknowledge that together, we can change lives and our community. Together, we can promote awareness, acceptance, and appreciation.
Together, we can change the future.
Through our efforts within the community, we identified and worked with strong partners interested in providing programs and services offering opportunities for all to thrive.
University of Toledo
Center for Excellence in Autism
In 2009 we worked with community leaders, the University of Toledo, and Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur to apply for and receive federal funding to create the University of Toledo Center for Excellence in Autism.
Community Autism Center
In 2010, we began working with ProMedica leaders to identify and solidify their role within the community. Through this effort, the Toledo Children's Hospital (TCH) Autism Early Learning Program was created as a "mirror" program of the Cleveland Clinic's autism early learning program. In addition, ProMedica committed to being a community partner and established the community autism center which would house the TCH Autism Early Learning Program along with 5 other community organizations including the GLCA. Today, the autism center is the home of the Great Lakes Collaborative for Autism, Self-Reliance Center, Special Kids Therapy Play Room, iTaalk, TCH Autism Early Learning Program, and a satellite office for Harbor.
Peer Collaborative Program
Our parents at the Self Reliance Center (SRC) were asking for "typical" peer interactions and social opportunities for their kids. We knew this would be a great program for our students at SRC but we were also excited for the opportunity to teach other high school students about autism. We knew if we could provide them with the knowledge and skills needed to work with our students, it would evolve into understanding and empathy that would influence their lives out in the community.
We worked with SRC, Autism Model School, and St. Francis De Sales High School to develop, fund, and execute a Peer Collaborative program. This program required hands-on training for "typical" high school peers that provided them the tools, skills, and experience to work with our students with autism.
This program has provided both our typical students and our students at SRC with tremendous growth in confidence, social skills, and empathy. It has also allowed real relationships to develop with many of our typical peers coming back to just "hang out" and visit.