Autism Action Partnership (AAP) emerged as a nonprofit charity in 2007 and embarked upon creating and enhancing strategic alliances for the purpose of improving and expanding services, programs and opportunities for children and young adults with autism and their families. Since then AAP has helped thousands of children and families through diverse programs including Circle of Friends, Transitions, Rethink, and others by focusing on the following priority areas:
1. Increasing awareness about Autism Spectrum Disorders for individuals affected by autism, their families, and the community at large
2. Offering information about diagnosis, treatment, and community resources
3. Educating professionals, educators and community members about autism
4. Fostering key service partnerships with community organizations that serve individuals and families touched by autism
5. Supporting the development and piloting of new services in the field of autism
Supporting and Strengthening Families
These are programs that recognize the challenges that face families impacted by autism and seek to improve the quality of life for those families, thereby strengthening them resulting in positive outcomes for individuals with ASD. Examples of programs include the Autism Legal Clinic, which assists families with free legal services and advice, family advocates supporting parents whose children have been diagnosed with ASD, and free or reduced cost clinics for behavioral treatment for children where the families do not have services covered by insurance. Moreover, this category includes special events or programs specific to families affected by autism that provide a measure of fun and/or respite for the families, such as “Night at the Children’s Museum,” “Night at the Zoo,” free indoor trampoline park experiences, and support for creative outlets for individuals on the autism spectrum like fine art classes and performing arts workshops. Finally, we will support families through an active and cutting edge website that has the latest information about resources and services for families, so that those impacted by autism have a place to turn for the help they need.
The rate of unemployment for individuals with ASD is estimated to be nearly 90%. Given the growing number of adults with ASD, this will be a major crisis for the economy. Furthermore, the lack of employment and meaningful activity results in deleterious outcomes for those with ASD. AAP has researched the issue and concluded that long term supported employment services is the key to reversing this trend and creating opportunities for the majority of people with ASD who can work in a meaningful career. AAP has also surveyed the existing landscape of providers in Nebraska and has found that no other agency is providing long-term supported employment services specific to the ASD population. To this end, AAP is funding the Partnership for Autism Career Employment, which will employ the TEACCH supported employment services model, beginning in the Omaha Metro Area and expanding when feasible.
Even though the number of individuals with autism is growing, and even though most people know someone touched by autism, there continues to be a lack of awareness, tolerance and understanding of this important issue. Furthermore, policy-makers and policy-drivers often lack key data informing their decisions regarding people with autism. AAP sees promoting these values of awareness, tolerance and understanding as consistent with its vision of a society that is truly inclusive of individuals with ASD. Therefore, AAP will invest resources in raising awareness and tolerance of ASD in our community through the annual Light it Up Blue Campaign, our Vintage Affaire fundraising gala, our annual Autism Summit, and through our website and social media endeavors. AAP will also invest resources in promoting a better understanding of autism in Nebraska through the Project for an Autism Database, which seeks quantitative data about the prevalence of autism in Nebraska and its impact on services and employment.
Supporting Capacity in Autism Community
Other organizations serving the ASD community perform a necessary and vital function related to key aspects of AAP’s mission and vision. Therefore, in certain key and defined circumstances, AAP will direct resources to help build or sustain the capacity of those organizations. This can take the form of direct grants, event sponsorships, partnerships, or in kind support.