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Family Services Community Grant Recipients 2014

October 17, 2014 – Autism Speaks is pleased to announce the recipients of the newest round of Family Services Community Grants!

More than $308,000 has been awarded to 13 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.

The recipients are listed below by category:

Recreation/Community Activities
Young Adult/Adult Services

Identified Area of Need - Education

Meeting Street
Providence, RI

"Meeting Street/Autism Speaks Training Initiative"

Meeting Street seeks a grant of $25,000 to expand its capacity to more effectively serve Rhode Island’s growing community of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) by implementing evidenced-based practices to diagnosis and better treat children birth to age five with ASDs. Meeting Street would use grant funds to improve ASD treatment offerings for underserved children and families by providing training to 90 of our early childhood development and education staff in the areas of in-home therapy, parent education and family support around ASDs. The aim of the training is to increase the number and skill level of early childhood services professionals trained specifically to coach parents in how to be good observers. With this training, both service providers and parents will be better able to use children’s cues to identify those red flags that lead to earlier diagnosis, better treatment and improved outcomes for children with ASDs.

SNAP, Inc.
Morristown, NJ

“SNAP e-Learning Initiative”

This project aims to help put an end to bullying by educating students throughout the country with the e-Learning educational initiative “Kindness is Cool”. “Kindness is Cool” would pair an online, kid-friendly, e-learning series with hands-on, teacher-led modules that allow students (grades three to five) to experience what it is like to have a disability. The project is developing two courses (45 minutes each) for students to take prior to having the interactive training already successfully administered in schools across the country. Developing the courses online will also make the programs self-sustainable and allow us to reach more classrooms. The program started back in 2010 with funding from Autism Speaks. With the initial $13,000 AS provided, they were able to design our program, purchase all necessary materials, publish our training manual, and garner the necessary support to implement the hand-on trainings throughout New Jersey. Since then, the program model has only developed and grown stronger. With the help of educators, parents, teachers, and our incredible volunteers and board of directors, they developed the interactive training used across the country. Running now for three years, they have seen how children respond to our programs and have tailored the trainings to become interactive, interesting, and impactful. Not only has this initiative been proven successful in school districts, SNAP's programs have also trained first responders of the Millburn Police, Fire and EMS Departments on how to handle various situations involving individuals with special needs.

University of California at Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, CA

“Increasing Service Providers' Competence for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Children with ASD”

As more culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) children are being diagnosed with ASD, there is an increasing demand for culturally competent service providers. The literature suggests that service providers who share the same cultural and linguistic background as families are in a unique position to help develop goals that are more culturally meaningful for CLD children with ASD. In consideration of this philosophy, this project will match CLD service providers with children with ASD in order to incorporate culturally sensitive measures into Pivotal Response Treatment, an empirically validated treatment. This project will then evaluate the resulting improvement in the following measures: (1) the children’s treatment gains; (2) the overall effect of the children and their families; (3) the families’ desire to seek out services for their children; and (4) the families’ satisfaction with service providers. At the end of this project, a training manual on how to best serve CLD families will be developed and disseminated nationally. By developing an easy to use step-by-step training manual, service providers from all over the world will be able to replicate and implement this program with fidelity.

SUN Foundation
Englewood, CO

"Enhancing Part C Services in a Local Colorado Community"

Community partners in Colorado: Cherry Creek Child Find, Developmental Pathways Early Intervention (Part C), and Children’s Hospital of Colorado are working to better meet the needs of young children (0-3) at risk for diagnosis of autism. Significant needs include lack of funding/ access to evidence-based models meeting IDEA mandates for parent involvement. The Pilot provides training and ongoing supervision for five Part C providers in the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), an evidence-based model of intervention for young children with autism. As they work toward certification in ESDM, they will team to develop a curriculum to implement ESDM in a format feasible for Part C providers and families. Program development will draw from strategies of Parent Coaching, with content informed by the ESDM parent book, An Early Start for Your Child with Autism and by the appropriate ATN toolkits. As a result of the parent coaching model, parents will demonstrate a better understanding of the goals on the IFSP. 

Cincinnati Children's Hospital, Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics
Cincinnati, OH

"Building Community Capacity in Daycare Settings for Young Children with Autism"

Every day, a child with developmental concerns is dismissed from daycare for disruptive behaviors. Every single day, a parent, must quit his/her job to stay home and care for the child who is "kicked out." The growing number of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) who are excluded from these environments makes it extremely important to train daycare providers on ASDs and associated behaviors so these children can be kept safe and their parents can continue to work. With support from this Autism Speaks Grant, a "Daycare Provider Toolkit" will be created to provide ASD education and serve as a manual for training providers on effective behavioral and environmental interventions to maintain safety and foster learning for children with ASDs. Using the toolkit as a guide, this capacity-building program will provide participants with in-the-moment coaching/training and will meet the goal of providing a greater number of safe childcare options for parents of children with ASDs.

Identified Area of Need - Recreation

Dylan's Wings of Change - a project of New Venture Fund
Middlebury, CT

“The Wingman Program”

The Wingman Program will provide resources necessary to educate, support, and recognize coaches, leaders and facilitators, youth participants, and parents for treating all members regardless of intellectual, social, or athletic ability with mutual respect and encouragement. By providing programs with simple, easy and fun ways to implement a set of tools and protocols based on leadership principles, peer modeling, motivational training and precise positive praise to all youth participants, typically developing and those with autism, they involve all participants, encourage positive behavior in all children and as a result, dissolve the "us" and "them" barrier. They then eliminate the need to make the program exclusively about the children with autism and develop new skill sets, foster relationships, create a sense of belonging and community and camaraderie. The Wingman program is specifically designed for mass replication and sharing with any youth or civic organization. The program curriculum, together with the Autism Speaks ‘Leading the way’ document can be provided as a package through the Autism Speaks website. Their own website will provide the functionality to deliver reward materials to participating clubs (both subsidized and full price options).

Florida Helps Foundation
Miami, FL

“Swim with ASD”

The “Swim With ASD” Program will provide expert swimming lessons targeted at the non-swimmer and beginner level to establish and improve basic water safety skills for autistic individuals of any age. They intend to model their program after the highly successful swimming program for autistic kids developed by the Aquatic Pros Swim School of San Diego, as supported by the Autism Society of San Diego, and published in their book, “Swimming With Autism”, written by Tammy Anderson-Lee and Cathy in 2011. One of the key deliverables is the “Swim With ASD” Program report. This report will document all steps on how to teach water safety and introductory swimming, how to set-up a similar program anywhere, how to staff and manage the program, and how to market, attract and retain year-to-year membership. It will be provided to Autism Speaks for inclusion on their web site to allow and encourage other communities to replicate this program in their community.

Mid-Island Y Jewish Community Center
Plainview, NY
$24, 175

“The Exceptional Swim Center”

There are very few opportunities for parents on Long Island to enroll their children with autism in swim classes. They therefore seek to create a high-quality program centered on evidenced based practices to teach water safety and swim skills to individuals with autism, ages three to 18, in a recreational setting. The professional designing the program is trained in ABA and will use such an approach, adapting the Red Cross Swim curriculum to meet the particular learning needs of individuals with autism. This will offer a unique model that is not currently being used in most special-needs swim programs. They will create a manual documenting the approach, and the program may serve as the basis for research. The JCC is uniquely positioned to widely publicize the availability of such a manual, given that it is a member organization of the Jewish Community Center Association, a continental umbrella organization for the Jewish Community Center movement, which includes more than 350 JCCs, YM-YWHAs, and camp sites in the United States and Canada. 

Identified Area of Need - Young Adult/Adult Services

University of California, Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, CA

“Fostering a Positive Social Environment: Peer Mediated Social Interventions for Students with ASD”

Many adolescents with ASD do not receive appropriate social intervention programs in their high schools and, because of their poor social skills, are bullied and victimized. This project, therefore, aims to address the need for evidence-based peer mediated social programs for adolescents with ASD in high schools. The intervention will consist of incorporating the adolescents with ASD’s preferred/specialized interests into regular recreational/social activities in schools that include the participation of typical peers. The goals of this project include improving the social development of adolescents with ASD, improving their overall mental health, eliminating the bullying and victimization, and creating a community within the school system that fosters a positive social environment. At the end of this project, a training manual describing how to utilize typically developing peers to implement a social intervention program that incorporates the adolescent with ASD’s specialized interests will be developed and disseminated nationally. By developing an easy to use step-by-step training manual, schools throughout the US and abroad will be able to replicate and implement this program with fidelity. In addition, the results from this project will be submitted for publication in prestigious journals with high impact factors. Finally, the results of this project will be presented at national and international professional conferences such as the Pivotal Response Treatment conference, the American Psychological Association conference, the Association of Behavioral Analysis conference, and the International Meeting for Autism Research conference.

Jewish Family & Children's Service
Philadelphia, PA

“Quality of Life Tool for Adults with ASD”

Jewish Family and Children’s Service’s Center for Special Needs (JFCS-CSN) will collaborate with the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute to develop and pilot a standardized quality of life (QOL) assessment tool to be used with adults diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, which includes several faculty members with experience in tool development and clinical expertise around adults with ASD including James Connell, Ph.D., will assist with the development of the tool, testing, and the interpretation of results. The tool will be applied and tested by both JFCS-CSN staff and other community providers. By developing a standardized QOL measurement for adults with ASD, service providers will gain access to a reliable tool that can be used to comprehensively and accurately evaluate their clients’ needs, draft thorough treatment plans and facilitate access the most appropriate combination of services and resources available. 

Massachusetts Advocates for Children
Boston, MA

“Young Adult Leaders Fellowship (YALF)”

This initiative will support MAC Fellows who are young adults with ASD to increase advocacy and employment skills, while providing a role model for peers, parents and educators. Fellows will develop job skills related to advocacy and the “soft skills” beneficial in any work setting- e.g., teamwork & problem solving. The Fellows, supervised by MAC staff and supported by law student peer mentors, will conduct workshops for youth and parents on how to participate in their own transition process, including self-advocacy for post-school employment, independent living and higher education. The YALF serves as a model to increase an organization’s advocacy success, with the voice and expertise of individuals with ASD, benefiting hundreds of their peers and families. An intensive evaluation plan enables MAC, in partnership with the Institute for Community Inclusion at UMass Boston, to document and evaluate the process and outcomes, and then develop a guide for national replication.

Yale University
New Haven, CT

“Lean Out:  Networking for Young Women with ASDs Seeking Employment” 

Adults with autism spectrum disorders have great difficulty finding employment. The need to network and work every connection is mandatory for job hunting. Women are not as good at networking as men; women with ASD have even greater challenges with networking.  This project addresses this gap in job training for women with ASDs by providing a program for learning networking skills in conjunction with other job skills. They will create curriculum materials and train job coaches to support participants as they create résumés, pursue networking opportunities and interview for employment. They will develop internship and employment opportunities for our participants, and provide coaching in all aspects of employment. They will evaluate the impact of the program through interview and observation, and modify the program based on this information. Program materials will be available for replication at no charge and they expect to offer the program yearly through their program at Yale. 

Spero Vineyards
San Marino, CA

“Spero Vineyards Viticulture Vocational Training Program”

The Spero Vineyards Viticulture Vocational Training program is a unique public-private partnership between project founders Mark & Eva Woodsmall, the City of Temecula and the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association. Currently, the project has 880 vines in cultivation. Student participants will receive instruction in the history, science, hospitality, business/marketing, and agricultural aspects of the winemaking business. Students will earn a customer service certification and a food handler’s license. Students are trained in essential skill areas that will position them to apply for and secure employment in a mainstream work environment. Each class session will be interactive and hands on to stimulate and engage students. The program currently serves 10 students with plans to expand to serve up to 200 participants annually by 2019. The program materials and curriculum are designed to be highly replicable and address the dire situation of unemployment for young adults with Autism. The curriculum is being developed for replication and expansion to other agricultural uses such as citrus grove management, olive oil production, succulents, etc.

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