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Your Dollars @ Work: Important Lessons from Successful Self-Advocates

We are very excited to launch Your Dollars @ Work!, a blog series highlighting the important work of past recipients of Autism Speaks grants. We hope these weekly posts give you a glimpse into the amazing impact your generous donations and fundraisers have on the lives of individuals with autism of all ages, all across the country, all year round! And most importantly, how the programs funded can help YOU!

This first post is a spotlight on Keeping it Real, a program of New York University's Steinhardt’s ASD Nest Support Project. This program works with successful self-advocates with ASD to develop self-advocacy and strength-based curricula for younger students with ASD.

The goal is for these self-advocates to serve as role models for these students!

Through the 2012 Autism Speaks Family Services Community Grants program, we were excited to provide $25,000 to this exciting new program! Three very successful self-advocates each developed a free curriculum focused on a different very important topic that can be used in schools everywhere to help both teachers and students support the autism community!

Jesse Saperstein: Keeping it Kind

"Lessons in Compassion: Combating Bullying" 

Jesse started a campaign called “Lessons In Compassion” to combat bullying in schools. He produced a video of his kick-off assembly and created five videos with follow-up activities called “minutes for compassion” for teachers.

Stephen Shore: Keeping it Strong

"The Power of Strengths and Interests" 

Stephen shared his belief that a student’s strengths and interests are integral to the school experience. He charges teachers to find creative ways to recognize and incorporate these passions.

Zosia Zaks: Keeping it True

"Empowering Students Through Self-Advocacy" 

Zosia developed a self-advocacy curriculum to help empower students to express their needs and problem solve with members of their community. He explores sensory, regulation, and communication differences and teaches three “action steps” for students to advocate for themselves.

Through this single grant, the curriculums created by these successful and inspiring self-advocates will help the autism community across the country!

"If we are going to keep it real about autism, we must have autistic individuals take the lead in educating others about their experience and  partner with self-advocates to encourage a strength-based approach that doesn’t center on remediating weaknesses," said Kristie Koenig, PhD, OTR/L, a director of the program. 

Autism Speaks Autism Response Team manager Lindsay Naeder was able to visit the Keep it Real Kick off in New York last month. "I had such a wonderful time attending the Keeping it Real Kick off," she said. "There is such great information in each piece of the curriculum, that really fills a need not many other resources can."

Click here to read a blog post about Keeping it Real by Kristie Patten Koenig, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Occupational Therapy,  New York University.

Since 2007, Autism Speaks has awarded close to $3.7 million in Family Services Community Grants to 172 organizations across the country. Search our Grants Database to learn more!

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.