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Family Services Community Grants Funded 2013

September 25, 2013 – Autism Speaks is pleased to announce the eighth round of Family Services Community Grants!

More than $340,000 has been awarded to 15 community-based organizations across the country. Each of these organizations is looking to expand existing programs to serve more individuals with autism and create new programs that demonstrate true innovation in providing services to improve and enrich the lives of individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). All proposals addressed one of the three identified areas of need: education, recreation/community activities, or young adult/adult services.

Autism Speaks would like to thank Toys "R" Us for generously funding this year's Family Services Community Grants.

The recipients are listed below by category:

Recreation/Community Activities
Young Adult and Adult Services

Identified Area of Need – Education

Legal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar Association
Orlando, FL

Autism Caregivers Education (ACE) Project

Youth with autism and other developmental disabilities are three times more likely to be victims of abuse, abandonment or neglect than their counterparts who are not diagnosed with autism. The professionals in the dependency system of care are charged with the responsibility of identifying what services are needed and ensuring that the services are appropriately implemented. Specific training is necessary to ensure that Guardians ad Litem (GALs), caretakers, parents of dependent children, and child welfare professionals not only appropriately identify the need for special education evaluations, but also advocate for such necessary services, and then secure them. It is the intent of the ACE project to assist dependency professionals in establishing meaningful educational implements for children with autism that will have a positive impact on youth far beyond the life of their dependency cases.

Easter Seals Southeast Wisconsin
West Allis, WI

Start Early, Start Strong

In Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, there are 108 children that have recently been diagnosed with autism, but will wait two years before they receive a waiver from the county that will enable them to receive autism therapy. Many of these children come from low-income families that do not have insurance or other resources to pay for autism therapy, or their families are not able to pay due to being eligible for Medicaid. The Start Early, Start Strong program serves to equip parents with knowledge, gives them access to a network of other parents of newly diagnosed children, and introduces them to a single resource for their questions and concerns. This program provides education on ASD, informs on intervention options, explains funding sources, and describes how to access funding. Parents learn how to implement their own individualized home intervention program based on evidence-based methodologies.

Alaska Autism Resource Center (Special Education Service Agency)
Anchorage, AK

Implementing Evidence-Based Practices: Capacity Building in Rural Alaskan Communities

The Alaska Autism Resource Center (AARC) proposes to provide training and support around implementing culturally relevant, evidence-based practices for individuals with autism in rural and remote areas. The Autism Speaks Community Grant will aid in providing training in key areas (i.e. Social/Communication Skills, Transitions, and Behavioral Supports) to the individuals, families, Para educators, and community members who were born and raised in largely Alaska native villages as opposed to continuing to concentrate training efforts on special education teachers who tend to come into the village and stay a very short length of time before leaving and taking that knowledge base with them. This is a capacity building project that will generate in depth knowledge about autism and evidence-based practices in these communities. It will rely on the strength of the AARC's staff members and their expertise in the area of autism but, most importantly, in the area of native culture and tribal values. This is the key to building a community of learners who will want to continue learning and educating others even after this project is over.

Identified Area of Need : Recreation

Wayne State University
Detroit, MI

Athletes with Autism

Athletes with Autism (AwA), a local non-profit organization, and Wayne State University (WSU) are designing a program that annually provides free sports programming to about 100 children and youth with ASD, with numbers growing due to demand and capacity-building efforts. Each year, 50 physical education and sport professionals are trained to provide instruction to children with ASD using established evidence-based practices (e.g., social narratives, video modeling, visual supports, etc.). The goal of this collaboration is to help young athletes with ASD develop the independence, socialization and physical skills needed to access existing community- and school-based sports programming with their age appropriate peers. 

Identified Area of Need : Young Adults/Adults

Dads 4 Special Kids Inc
Phoenix, AZ

Emergency/Disaster Preparedness

The project calls for conducting individual workshops that target the wide spectrum of autism and related disabilities. The focus will be on the learning styles of participants. It is crucial that a local first responder be the individual conducting the workshop. The individual first responders are the core of the program and often live and work in the target community. The first responder’s presence in conducting the workshops, demonstrate to the community their concern for the welfare of their functional needs. It is these individual first responders that will be called upon to assist the functional needs community in the event of an emergency or disaster. Collaboration with local and national agencies that serve the functional needs population will enhance our ability to reach this population. The mission of the program will be for participants to exit the workshop with a wealth of information about the services and resources in their local area and their own fully developed Emergency Disaster Preparedness Plan.

Robert Crown Center for Health Education
Hinsdale, IL

Puberty Education for Youth with Autism

The Robert Crown Center for Health Education requests a grant to develop a puberty education program for youth with autism and their parents and teachers. Because of the increased demand from schools and parents in the community for puberty education programs for students with autism and the newly completed update of our Family Life curriculum they are positioned to develop a puberty education program that is tailored to the learning styles and language abilities of youth with autism, incorporates best practices for youth with autism and provides support and resources for parents and teachers. After this puberty education project is completed they will develop additional age-appropriate sexuality education programs for youth with autism that are based on our comprehensive Family Life curriculum and include the topics of embryology, human reproduction and teen sexual health.

Rochester Institute of Technology
Rochester, NY

Practitioners Conference: ASD in Higher Education

The project will fund the development of a manual created as a result of RIT’s Spectrum Support Program's (SSP) one-day Practitioners Conference in June 2014 to build capacity at multiple institutes of higher learning by providing hands-on training to professionals in higher education to develop ASD supports customized for their home institutions. Training topics will include areas such as: creating a mentoring model, case management and advising best practices, transitional support through pre-orientation programming, residence life considerations, supporting students in the job search process, training faculty and staff, curricular development for specialized academic, social, and career success seminars, as well as costing/budgeting considerations. Session participants will have the opportunity to develop individualized drafts of support plans (institution specific goals, curricula, budget priorities, etc.) to apply at their home institutions and will have the opportunity to receive feedback from a panel of experts.

LaGrange Area Department of Special Education
LaGrange, IL

Prepping for the Data Management World of Work

This project will help to create a curriculum for training students with ASD and in data management curricula and in the social communication skills needed in data environments. The curriculum will be inclusive of real-work samples, with peer leader instruction videos and a social communication skill training that relates to office environments. This training package will enable students with ASD in high school (and adults in the community) to learn data management skills, practice Process Execution technical skills and social communication skill in preparation for employment. They will be able to compete for positions in this field based on their training experience.

Make Studio Art Program, Inc.
Baltimore, MD

Create Community: Arts-Vocational Studio Program for Young Adults with Autism

Make Studio’s arts-based program addresses the intersection of social deficits and stressors related to transitioning to the world of work and independent living, as there is a striking need for this component of employment-readiness. Make Studio provides all its participants with a professionally-equipped studio workplace, in a community-integrated setting, that is comparable to other fine artists’ studios, and is quite unlike traditional disabilities services settings. Facets of their adaptive curriculum will include the development of professional portfolios with increasing self-direction and devising personalized ways of engaging with the community (such as through blogging and attending events). In sum, the proposed program will enhance services for young adult artists with autism by strengthening social skills essential to workplaces and independent living. Objectives are to (1) collaboratively develop a new curriculum with our current participants with autism; (2) implement and evaluate the curriculum; (3) produce materials for replication. There are no other programs in our community that similarly address, in a holistic fashion, employment barriers and job readiness for our target population.

Have Dreams
Park Ridge, IL

Developing A Digital Resume For Young Adults With Autism To Effectively Seek Employment

The ‘iResume’ will be developed specifically to assist young adults with autism and their job coach in creating a profile that accurately represents their ability to perform the tasks of the job for which they are applying. Critically, the ‘iResume’ will contain video clips of the applicant carrying out tasks that highlight their on-the-job skills. Prospective employers will utilize the applicant’s iPad to view their iResume and objectively assess their skills. The program will include functional assessments, as well as endorsements by job coaches and vocational employers to illustrate the young adult’s potential to be an effective, desirable employee. iResume helps to bridge the gap between the inability of an individual with autism to successfully participate in the interview process and demonstrate abilities they gained as a result of their vocational training program. Seeking employment utilizing this tool affords individuals with autism increased independence in the interview process and helps them to get one step closer to obtaining meaningful employment. This is an innovative model program that has the potential to impact many individuals with autism and intellectual disabilities locally and across the country.

Resources for Children with Special Needs
New York, NY

Transition Training for Underserved NYC Chinese and Spanish Speaking Families of Children with ASD's

The goal of this training initiative is to provide underserved Hispanic and Chinese families of youth with ASD’s with training and information to enable them to advocate effectively and to access services and public systems. Transition planning is critical to maximize the independence, productivity, and inclusion of young adults with ASD’s. However, information and education on services, resources, and programs available to the Autism community is scarce for culturally and linguistically diverse families. The purpose of this initiative is to provide families who primarily speak Spanish or Chinese with culturally and linguistically competent information to help prepare youth for adulthood.

Westchester Institute for Human Development
Valhalla, NY

Understanding Housing Options for People with ASD

Westchester is home to almost one million people. It is economically, ethnically and linguistically diverse. Housing is scarce and expensive compared to other parts of the state. The waiting list for housing for people who have been approved for services by OPWDD in Westchester County does not differentiate between people with ASD and those with other I/DD, but it is currently in excess of 700 people. The Housing Resource Center will build capacity in the housing provider system by connecting people with Autism and other I/DD to appropriate housing based on income, location, and accessibility. The Center will provide families with information, but will also seek to connect them more directly with resources, help them to create a housing plan, and provide support brokerage to cement the connections they need to make.

University of Texas at Austin Speech and Hearing Center
Austin, TX

Training for Adults in Language and other Key Skills (TALKS)

This spring, UTSHC expanded its services to include a group intervention model for young adults with ASD to participate in functional speech and language activities along with peer mentors, who are undergraduate students at the University of Texas at Austin. Seven young adults with ASD (ages 19-29) have participated in the weekly group with great success. Motivational and Interactive Planning Projects (MIPPS) completed around the campus provided a “real life” context for practicing communication and language skills. Parents and siblings have been included in select activities to allow for maximum carry-over of skills to the natural living environment. Participants have demonstrated improvement in target skills such as asking and answering questions, making related comments in conversation, and reporting on a variety of topics. The UTSHC is anxious to make this program available to more young adults in our community and expand to a more intensive, longitudinal program. Thus, we are requesting funding from Autism Speaks to finalize and launch our year-round program for adults with autism: Training for Adults in Language and other Key Skills (TALKS).

Community Living Opportunities, Inc
Lawrence, KS

Virtual Village Neighborhood Network

In 2012, CLO created an innovative community living model to support adults with autism living semi-independently in an apartment complex, called the Virtual Village. This model utilizes high technology for remote support in combination with a sophisticated on-site, on-demand staffing model to provide a menu of remote and deployed support when and where needed to maximize independence and minimize costs.  By increasing the social network of those living semi-independently with autism and other developmental disabilities, they expect to see increased appropriate social interactions, the development of healthy relationships, technology fluency, and bolstered confidence among the consumers to be among the results of the VVNN. In addition, they expect the individuals will not only be better connected to one another and their immediate neighborhood, but also to their family members through the closed social network. Finally, they hope that individuals obtain new and enriched opportunities for community inclusion, leisure, volunteerism, and employment. 

St. Michael's Harbour
Hermitage, PA

Post Employment Support Program

Traditional vocational programs and services and the associated funding components tend to disappear once an individual retains a job for 90-days. Our project intends to formally develop and implement a post-employment support program. Our approach will be individualized in order to address varying functional levels and to preserve self-determination and autonomy. In order to standardize our approach, the project will include the development of program materials and methods which will allow for replication. Additionally, we will use outcome goals and measures to evaluate effectiveness, and the need for program modification.

Search the Autism Speaks Grants Database to view grants we have funded in the past.

For more information about the Autism Speaks Family Services Grants program, contact Serena Selkin at