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.