What Lies Ahead for Autism NOW
September marks the end of another fiscal year for the Autism NOW Center, which means we are working hard to gear up for Year 3! In this issue of Prism, Director Tonia Ferguson reflects on the Center’s progress and accomplishments in the past year and announces what lies ahead in Year 3. Since its existence, Autism NOW has set out to empower self-advocates, families, professionals and others in the community to share knowledge and engage in conversations about autism and its impact on lives. In her article, Leann Anglin reveals how Autism NOW has inspired the Arc of Caddo-Bossier, a local non-profit organization in Louisiana, to initiate conversations about autism. Additionally, she shares suggestions for groups and organizations that wish to pursue this in their own communities!
September also takes us a month closer to the upcoming Presidential Elections, and with registration deadlines quickly approaching, we wanted to encourage everyone to exercise their right to vote! Check out Co-Director Amy Goodman’s article to learn more about the rights of voters with disabilities, as well as how to register!
By Tonia Ferguson
Director, Autism NOW Center
The National Autism Resource and Information Center is an initiative of The Arc, dedicated as the central point of high quality resources and information across the lifespan for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and other developmental disabilities. Autism NOW has completed its second full year of operation and has made remarkable achievements. Early on Autism NOW had many successes as well as moments of frustration because of the reduction in funding. Through it all, the many faces of those with ASD and their families who shared their stories with us in Year 1 continued to be our driving force for year two.
In year two, over a million people connected and communicated with us through our dynamic and interactive virtual website. Also, through our national partnership of influential and respected organizations dedicated to services for people with autism and other developmental disabilities, Autism NOW hosted 52 webinars designed to connect individuals on the spectrum, families, professionals, and the general public to valuable information. This innovative and interactive model allows individuals with ASD to connect and communicate with people who understand what they may be experiencing, not only by our website but also through our social media networking channels like Facebook and Twitter. Autism NOW has shared over 15,000 marketing toolkits that are now accessible at the fingertips of local chapters of The Arc, professionals, and the general public. As you can see, we’ve made great progress this year. Some our accomplishments are visible but other achievements involve a tremendous amount of work behind the scenes, such as the quality work of our National Advisory Committee that reviews all of our high-quality resources and information, and the daily outreach to individuals with ASD and their families who call our Information and Referral hotline. Although not in the limelight, this work is equally important in our success at the Center.
Moving forward, plans for year three promise more growth and progress. Our dedicated National Advisory Committee will begin to examine more literature reviews of research articles generated from the AUCD network and other materials that contain effective best-practice approaches taking place in local communicates across the country. The research articles will cover early detection and intervention; transition from high school into adulthood; community based employment; advocacy; and community inclusion, allowing for greater awareness across the life-span.
A priority for Autism NOW in year three is to significantly increase the connection to people with ASD or other developmental disabilities. The Center is engaging two dynamic partners-Self Advocates Becoming Empowered and the Autistic Self Advocacy Network as an essential component of outreach and connection to individuals with ASD and other developmental disabilities. Additionally, the Center is dedicated to increasing public awareness in Year 3 by engaging the public to connect with us via YouTube as we present high quality videos.
Vote: It’s Empowering!
by Amy Goodman
Co-Director, Autism NOW Center
With the Presidential Elections just a few short weeks away, now is the time to learn about your rights as a voter! Did you know that approximately 30% of eligible Americans are not registered to vote
? Some people forget to register, while others are unsure about the voting process; however, for people with disabilities, issues with accessibility may often deter them from voting.
There are laws that encourage and protect the right to vote for individuals with disabilities including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, and the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002. HAVA, in particular, focuses on accessibility by requiring at least one fully accessible voting machine in each precinct for people with disabilities in federal elections.
Registering to Vote
The eligibility requirements to vote vary by state, so it is important to check with your local Board of Elections. In general, you must:
Be a United States citizen
Vote in the state in which you live.
Be an adult, 18 years of age or older.
Once you have met the eligibility requirements in your state, you must register to vote. In order to do so, you must not have lost your right to vote and you must possess some form of identification.
There are a few ways to register to vote:
In Person: Register at your city or town’s election office, the department of motor vehicles, or any public facility has been designated as a voter registration agency.
By Mail: Print out the application online, fill it out and mail it in to your local board of elections.
Online: The Arc offers one of many online tools to help people register to vote.
Also, find more specific information about eligibility requirements, deadlines and polling places available in your state
Accessibility: Are the Polling Places Accessible to Individuals with Disabilities?
Accessibility means everyone regardless of their disability can:
Get to the polling place
Find a place to park. Are there spaces available?
Enter the building. Are doors and ramps wide enough?
Get to the actual booth without any problems. Is there a route to and from the actual booth that is free of clutter?
For more information on accessibility issues and solutions to barriers, check out the ADA's website
A person who is unable to make it to their polling place on the day of the election can cast an absentee ballot. Absentee voting consists of obtaining a ballot in the mail, filling it out, and mailing it in to your local board of elections in advance. Each state has its own rules, procedures, and deadlines for submitting an absentee ballot. For more information, visit CanIVote.org
and access the “Absentee and Early Voting” section.
Voters whose eligibility to vote is in question must be offered a provisional ballot. Only a federal judge can declare an individual incompetent to vote; therefore, on the day of the election, if you are told not to vote because of your disability or if a poll worker claims you cannot vote because you are “incompetent,” ask for a provisional ballot. This ballot will be counted if the appropriate state or local election official determines that the voter was eligible and registered under State law.
For more information and a complete guide to voting rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, visit the bazelon.org website
Voting is very important, so take it seriously and know your fundamental rights as a citizen of the United States. Do not allow others to dictate what you can and cannot do. Stand up for yourself and be proactive. The election is on November 6th
, 2012. Be empowered and go vote!
You, Empowered: Starting an Autism Initiative in the Local Community
by Leann Anglin
Director of Resource Development at The Arc of Caddo-Bossier
When she walked in my office I could tell that she was going to speak her mind. She was passionate and pushy, but she had the right to be. She knew what it is like to raise a child with autism, and she was sitting across from me demanding more from our community. As a community we were failing our parents who have children with autism. Even with severe budget cuts running through my head, I couldn’t tell this mother that The Arc Caddo-Bossier would not be able to help.
Just a few weeks prior to that meeting, The Arc of the United States had announced that it was awarded a grant from the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AIDD). This national initiative produced the Autism NOW Center.
The Arc Caddo-Bossier grabbed this opportunity and followed suit by launching our own local resource and information initiative on autism in Northwest Louisiana. Our goal was to provide our community with opportunities to engage in the autism information exchange, just as The Arc of the United States was doing with the national initiative, while also providing quality local resources and information. We were able to connect families to efficient and productive discussions with experts from across the United States on relevant and timely topics through the free weekly webinars hosted by Autism NOW. We began initiating conversations about autism, making connections, and simply not only demanding more from our community, but from ourselves.
In the spring of 2011, we started working closely with our local community foundation on the concept of assembling leaders from organizations, institutions and businesses that serve individuals with autism and their families. The first meeting in June of 2011 was extremely successful as we sat around a very large table and discussed how we could improve communication and reach more people. After this event, we gathered everyone’s contact information and kept the conversation moving through emails, e-newletters, and meetings. Since then, we have collaborated with a group of students at the medical school in our community to develop and expand a database of local autism resources that will soon be available on our website.
It is thrilling to know that as a result of our first gathering in 2011, the local chapter of the pediatric society has reorganized with one focus on how physicians are diagnosing autism and how they are disseminating information about services that are available. This past July, we hosted our second annual Community Conversation on Autism, and everyone in attendance was excited to come together again, not only to discuss our accomplishments, but more importantly, to discuss our plans for the future.
Have we accomplished everything that the mother who met with me had hoped? No, but we are off to a great start! To the organizations and groups that are also interested in initiating conversations about autism, we have found that round-table discussions with leaders of local autism resources and services are an excellent beginning. They do not cost much, but they develop a powerful network that is vital to quality communications in the future. Also, once you open up communications, you find gaps in services developing a clear path for future plans with everyone working together. Our work began with a conversation, but you can’t just talk, you also have to be willing to listen!