This guest blog post is by Juliana Fetherman. She has a brother on the autism spectrum and is an autism advocate.
Advocating for those who cannot advocate for themselves is my passion. My brother, who is 19 years old, was diagnosed with autism and ADHD at a very young age. He is high functioning, verbal and my best friend. Since he is very aware of his differences, he wants nothing more than to be "normal." Having to watch him suffer from his differences is the driving force that helps me inspire change in the world every day.
I will be graduating from Sacred Heart University in May and in my time there, I served two years as President of the Are You Autism Aware Club. In that term, I had the opportunity to raise and donate thousands of dollars to worthy autism and special need organizations. My biggest event to date was on April 30th at Great River Golf Club in Milford, CT called the MAF Golf Outing. The course is among one of the top in the country.
There were four main recipients of the money from this outing. The first was Spectrum Designs Foundation, which is very special to my family and me because it is where my brother works. It is a wonderful place located in Port Washington, Long Island. Spectrum Designs is a fully functioning apparel customization shop. It focuses on three different platforms, Spectrum Designs, Spectrum Bakes and Spectrum Suds. Their mission is simple, providing gainful employment and meaningful work opportunities to individuals with autism, in an effort to assist them in leading fuller, independent and productive lives. My brother, alongside many other young adults with autism, have found a home at Spectrum, so no donation amount can repay them.
The second recipient was The Pilot House, which is local to me in Fairfield, CT. They have a similar mission to provide individuals with autism and other special needs the means and support to maximize their personal growth, self-esteem and independence. They offer a farm, where students can plant, grow and sell garden vegetables as well as interact with the farm animals. They offer media, theatre, culinary, gym, arts and crafts programs and the opportunity to sell their arts and crafts in their newest initiative, the “Yes We Can” gift shop.
The third recipient was Autism Speaks. As one of the leading autism advocacy foundations, they are dedicated to promoting solutions across the spectrum for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. This is through advocacy and support, increasing understanding and acceptance of people with autism spectrum disorder and advancing research into causes and better interventions for autism spectrum disorder and related conditions. All very deserving causes.
The fourth recipient was my own personal initiative. It is a charitable golf outing called “The Making Authentic Friendships Golf Outing”. Not having friends makes my brother lonely, depressed and feel “abnormal”. This breaks my heart, which is why I am going to change it for my loved one and for yours. The proceeds will be used to create an Apple iOS mobile application that enables individuals with special needs, ages 13+, make friends. The app is called Making Authentic Friendships (MAF), which are also my brother’s initials. It matches people based upon their geographical location, diagnosis, age and interests. The application will be very user friendly, for it will work like a game. This will create incentives to make friends on the app. There will be several safety precautions throughout the sign-up process, to ensure that people are exactly who they say they are. It will also provide "suggested fun spots" to meet with a potential friend match. For people who already have many struggles in life, “Making Authentic Friendships” should not be one of them. I want to change this for my brother and the millions out there like him because “Everyone Deserves Someone”. We are still months away from launching the app but within the next month, we will be launching a crowd funding campaign with ifundwomen. Stay tuned for that initiative by following our social media platforms @makingauthenticfriendships!