To improve the quality of life of persons on the Autism Spectrum and their families through education, advocacy and support, thereby enabling them to be an integral part of the community.
Every person touched by autism in the Heartland will receive the care and support necessary to lead a fulfilling and dignified life.
Autism Action Partnership seeks to maximize our impact and increase inclusion for those on the autism spectrum through targeted grants and services. Our funding and support are characterized in the following five categories:
1. Supporting and Strengthening Families
We believe that having a child or children on the autism spectrum is a tremendous gift, but one that comes with challenges that greatly impact families. At Autism Action Partnership we believe that we must support families as they navigate a confusing world and seek opportunities and support. We do this through direct grants supporting legal services for families, behavioral treatment and early intervention, and providing a family advocate connecting parents with resources. We also sponsor several free events specifically designed for children with autism at the Henry Doorly Zoo, the Omaha Children’s Museum, Defy Gravity indoor trampoline park, summer art school at Hot Shops, and others.
2. Workforce Development
Many adults with autism have the capability to work part or full time at a meaningful job. However, barriers such as social skills and low expectations result in what some estimate to be a 90% unemployment rate among the autism community. To reverse this trend in Nebraska, AAP funds and operates the Partnership for Autism Career Employment (PACE), which provides long term supported employment services for young adults on the autism spectrum. PACE employs the evidence-based TEACCH model in helping individuals with autism secure, maintain, and thrive in career-based employment. AAP and PACE also partner with Project SEARCH in opening more doors for employment for those with developmental and intellectual disabilities.
3. Social Skills/Education
A major barrier to positive outcomes in the educational setting for those with autism is a difficulty developing social skills. Recent studies show that social skills are essential for success in most growth industries today. AAP therefore funds the “Circle of Friends” program in over 220 elementary, middle and high schools throughout Nebraska, which is a peer-based social skills endeavor. Thousands of children benefit from Circle of Friends each year. In addition, AAP supports the Transitions Program at the University of Nebraska – Omaha, which provides social skills training and support for college-age young adults in the Omaha metro area.
We seek to increase awareness and demystify misconceptions about autism through supporting awareness throughout Nebraska of autism and how to connect with services. We currently support the Project for and Autism Database which will yield a better understanding of the prevalence of autism in Nebraska in partnership with the University of Nebraska – Omaha. We host the Annual Autism Summit which brings national speakers, many of whom are on the autism spectrum, to present diverse views on the subject of autism. In April we raise awareness through the True Blue Challenge Campaign, celebrating World Autism Day on April 2. We also host a comprehensive website resource that is often the first stop for families after a new diagnosis of autism. Relatedly, we offer a hotline for advice and resource connection for families and individuals. Finally, we raise awareness every year at our Vintage Affaire gala and our annual Help is Hope Award, recognizing an individual who has made tremendous contributions to autism services in our state.
5. Supporting Capacity in Autism Community
There are many grass roots providers of events and services for families impacted by autism in Nebraska. We will support their efforts to increase their own capacity to deliver opportunities through grants when they have demonstrated a substantial level of commitment to good governance and focus on autism as their mission. We also support capacity-building through partnership in advocacy efforts and in efforts to align different partners in increasing the collective impact of organizations dedicated to improving the well-being of individuals, families and institutions involved in autism and autism services.