To mark its quarter-century milestone, the Autism Alliance has launched a yearlong series of giveaways that will directly benefit the families it serves.
The celebration kicked off this month with the raffle of a sensory-friendly birthday party; other giveaways in 2018 include a financial planning session for 20 families, a police escort to school for the sibling of a child with autism, and a family photo shoot for the holiday season.
“Who we are is ‘family,’ so what better way to celebrate our organization’s milestone than by creating a series of gifts that will keep on giving throughout the year to the families that we serve,” said Allison Daigle, executive co-director of the Autism Alliance and the mother of an adult son with autism.
The forerunner of the Autism Alliance formed in 1993 when a group of six families, all with children newly diagnosed on the autism spectrum, gathered in a local church basement to try to understand the difficult news. At the time – prior to the emergence of the Internet, and when rates of autism were relatively low – resources about the developmental disorder were scarce. The families found tremendous value in the support and guidance they gave each other.
“Before this organization formed, families faced a lack of resources for information and support. We turned to each other for support, meeting formally every month but also informally, a one-on-one approach that we continue today,” said Pamela McKillop, executive co-director of the Autism Alliance. McKillop, whose daughter was diagnosed with autism, joined the group in 1993 and is a past board member.
Over the next decade, the group formerly known as “The Family Voice” grew steadily. Led by founder Nannette Ohman, the group secured grant funding from the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services, designed support groups and specialized programs, and attained nonprofit status.
In 2009, as many of the children who had been served in the early days began entering adulthood, the Autism Alliance became a program of Advocates. Four years later, Advocates opened the Life Skills and Learning Center in Ashland, where programming was expanded to include adults with autism.
“We were proud to welcome the Autism Alliance into our family of programs, and they have stayed true to their grass-roots mission even as the level of support and the number of families served has seen significant growth in recent years,” said Diane Gould, president and CEO of Advocates. “The landscape of autism has changed tremendously over the past 25 years but in many ways the Autism Alliance’s strong foundation has remained the same.”
The Autism Alliance serves more than 1,400 families by providing information, education and support; planning programs and events; and increasing public awareness of autism. One out of every 68 children born today will be diagnosed on the autism spectrum, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Autism Alliance also provides community training on how to interact compassionately to individuals with autism.
“We are honored and proud to partner with the Autism Alliance and to be able to provide our facility as a space for kids to get the benefit of moving their bodies in a safe environment,” said Matt Johnson, owner of Energy Fitness & Gymnastics, a longtime Caring Partner of the Autism Alliance. “We congratulate the Autism Alliance on their first 25 years of amazing service to the community.”
Throughout 2018, the Autism Alliance will offer monthly contests for families and professionals.
Below is a list of the 25th anniversary giveaways (click here for more details):
January – Birthday party at Energy Fitness & Gymnastics in Natick or Newton (raffle closed)
February – Financial planning workshop with Waymark Wealth Management of Westborough
March – Teacher appreciation lunch by Nick’s Pizza & Grill of Ashland, with a service dog visit
April – VIP family package for “Kite Day” on Bose Mountain
May – “Miracles on the Spectrum” book talk luncheon with Kensington Therapeutic of Boston
June – Sensory-friendly evening at Southwick Zoo in Mendon
July – Mini golf party package at Putts & More Family Fun Center in Holliston
August – Sensory swim lessons at the Sheraton Framingham
September – Framingham police escort to school to honor a sibling
October – Career path assessments by Westborough-based MindsetGo
November – Family photo day with Natick portrait photographer Karen McCall
December – Holiday sing-along with Roman Music Therapy Services of Wakefield
The Autism Alliance is a program of Advocates offering events, support and resources for individuals with autism and their families. The Autism Alliance is made up of more than 1,400 families and nearly 200 specialists in the field – a community of people sharing information and experiences, and offering support in a variety of ways.
Advocates provides a broad range of services for people facing life challenges such as addiction, aging, autism, brain injury, intellectual disabilities, and mental health conditions. With Advocates’ help, thousands of individuals and families living in Massachusetts are finding the supports they need to lead healthy, productive, and rewarding lives.