Just hours away from 2016, the Autism Society is looking back on the significant moments that impacted the autism community this year. As we celebrated our 50th year of caring throughout 2015, we came together to leverage our collective voices to promote autism awareness and understanding throughout the world. Here are a few of our highlights:
- In 2015, the nation’s oldest grassroots autism organization marked 50 years of helping all people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Five decades ago, Dr. Ruth Sullivan and other well-informed parents created a national organization that would work to seek education and care for people with autism; one that would work for adequate legislation, research and publicity for their unique challenges. Today, the Autism Society remains the oldest and largest national grassroots organization helping individuals and families living with ASD.
- In February 2015, the Autism Society and our grassroots network of affiliates and volunteers met with Congressional leaders to advocate for more responsive and efficient national public policy agenda for helping improve the quality of life all impacted by autism. This year also brought the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a bipartisan legislation that overhauled the No Child Left Behind Act by enacting reforms to ensure all students have access to a high-quality education.
- Sesame Street announced a new addition to its muppet family – a young girl named Julia, who is on the autism spectrum. Julia was introduced as part of the launch of a new autism awareness initiative, Sesame Street and Autism – See Amazing in All Children. The program was designed to celebrate the uniqueness of each and every child. The Autism Society proudly served as an advisor for this exciting initiative.
- The Autism Society trained hundreds of individuals with our Safe and Sound Initiative. We provided training to first responders to help them understand how to interact with individuals affected by autism.
- For National Autism Awareness Month, we came together to promote how autism awareness can lead to action, inclusion, acceptance, and appreciation for the differences and the uniqueness of the autism community. Our #AutismUniquelyYOU social media campaign galvanized thousands to create handprints in honor of all of the wonderful contributions from people living with autism spectrum disorder.
- In July 2015, over 1100 people from around the nation gathered in The Mile High City for the oldest and largest grassroots autism conference in the country. The 46th Annual Autism Society National Conference and Exposition brought together a diverse group of individuals on the autism spectrum, policy experts, disability advocates, families and professionals who all care about promoting a better world for those with ASD. Next year we are headed to New Orleans!
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) turned twenty-five! With the passage of ADA, people with disabilities were guaranteed the right to fair hiring practices; access to state and federal state services and programs; and reasonable access to public accommodations and commercial facilities under the law. No longer were those with physical and intellectual challenges relegated to the shadows, the American with Disabilities Act affirmed the humanity of every person living with a disability.
- Finally, a highlight of the year for me was in June 2015 when I had my annual visit with Dr. Ruth Sullivan. Sitting with Ruth is always a treat, but this year was particularly unique. Ruth, as she always does, challenged us to do even more than we do and never to give up on those who need us the most.
As approach a New Year, we hope you will join us as we focus on those behind the numbers and work to improve the lives and each and every person on the spectrum. We look forward to partnering with you over the next fifty years to ensure every person with autism is appreciated, valued, respected for the unique gifts and talents they have to offer to the world.