There is a glaring disconnect between what we understand about Autism and how we as a society apply this information to improve life. So, how do we change the world? By sharing information… one project at a time.
Just as autism can be described by a spectrum of behaviors, so too can the autism community be described by the various agendas of many special interest groups. In this era of instant communication, their combined activity has increased our base of shared knowledge.
Knowledge alone is not enough to bring about significant change. Action is still required. In the United States and other countries possessing a sophisticated infrastructure, change is largely a matter of juggling financial and procedural hurdles. Our growing understanding will continue to correct misconceptions, attitudes and ultimately our social systems.
However, elsewhere people are not sharing in this renaissance. In fact, most people on the spectrum live in countries that do not recognize the humanity of autism. Most do not provide education or support services for families. Outcasts in their own countries, unable to obtain public services or afford private attention, families and advocates are desperate for even the most basic information.
Where there is a will….… As a former teacher turned Internet reporter and editor of the online magazine The Omni Intelligencer , Kathleen Tehrani was acutely aware of the gravity of this problem. She recognized that in these places even simple, practical information was almost impossible to get. She envisioned a website that would connect people with knowledge and experience to connect directly with others who really needed it.
With crucial support from mutual friend Tom Schiff, Kathleen,Marc Brenner and I created AutismBrainstorm.org, a free online community designed to accomplish her dream. This website provides three key functions that enable people with questions to connect directly with people who have answers.
1 – ACCESS TO INFORMATION
The Human Spectrum Magazine – Monthly, multiple experts weigh-in on a common theme
2 – SHARING AND DISCUSSION
The World Cafe – An informal meeting place hosting chat and formal webinar rooms for special interest groups
Some of the voices heard on the aB site: Dr. Stephen Shore, Craig Evans, John Elder Robison, Dr. Robert Naseef, Brian King, Ann Millan, Lars Perner, Keri Bowers, Dr. Stacy Goresko, Anita Lesko, Jane Ferris Richardson, Joanne Lara, Shelly Tzforfas, David Geslak, Michael Woods, Ann Roberts, Susan Diamond, Erik Estebrook, Donna Williams, Frank Louis Allen, Paul Issacs.
3 – IDENTIFYING VALUED PROJECTS
The Kindness Zone – Identifying projects with immediate and long-term benefits that have a high probability for success.
… there is a way. Eighteen months after launch and due entirely to Kathleen’s vision and determination, we can announce a milestone. The Kindness Zone is now featuring two worthy projects for education.
The Ashish Foundation
In a culture that stigmatizes those with intellectual challenges, The Ashish Foundation (501-c) stands out as a voice of reason and compassion. Since it’s 2007 opening with 7 children, it has grown to include critical training and therapies for 40 children with autism in the New Delhi area who would not otherwise attend school. Assuming the 2001 Indian Census estimate of autism incidence to be correct, 1 out of every 500 people calling New Delhi home is an autistic citizen… altogether more than 20,000 strong.
Their problem. In India, misinformation about mental disability, mental illness and physical impairment is rampant. Mental impaired is associated with diminished intellectual capacity, illiteracy, the inability to satisfactorily performing valuable work.. 71% of ‘mentally impaired’ females are illiterate. And, because autism is NOT covered by the Disability Act of India, millions of people lack of support, diagnosis, and intervention services. Professional services are prohibitively expensive.
Their role. Ashish fills an important need for affordable, qualified autism services to children as well as working with the community to help change hearts and minds.
Their goal. $5000 to hire and train additional staff as well continuing their community outreach workers to work with families.
The Caroline Wambui Mungai Foundation
Caroline Wambui Mungai born, Kenya attended Adelphi University in New York pursuing her Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education. Her dream was to become a teacher and eventually desired to start a school to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds. What began in 2005 as an orphanage occupying a four bedroom house donated by the Mungai family has blossomed into a model K-12 school with residential facilities serving 40 children from five Kenyan provinces of Kenya and Tanzania.
Their problem. The Foundation, a 501(C)3 not-for-profit tax-exempt organization registered in New York and in Kenya, need funds to maintain a residence and school for 40 orphans and vulnerable children in Wangige, Kenya.
Their role. Providing destitute, orphaned children with the help they need to become productive and responsible citizens.
Please support these worthy causes. By helping these foundations to achieve very modest goals, you will be insuring that invaluable services will continue to be received by those who need it most.
Please visit AutismBrainstorm to find other projects. Meet people worldwide. Advise a family. Volunteer your time. …….and don’t forget to pass this information along to others.