This past week has been a very difficult one for children and families across our nation. Words cannot express the sorrow that we feel for the victims of last Friday’s tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. Our hearts and thoughts go out to the families who have suffered this unspeakable loss.
Unfortunately, this tragedy will also be especially difficult for the families of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Recent media coverage has created a misleading perception of those in our community who live with Asperger’s syndrome. As a result, we will undoubtedly need to work harder to provide critical support for individuals on the spectrum and to educate the public about the true characteristics of, and challenges faced by, the children and families we serve. As the largest statewide network of autism services providers in the nation, The Autism Program of Illinois is perfectly poised to rise to that challenge.
TAP achieved many programmatic milestones in 2012. We screened more children for ASD than ever before. More families have been utilizing our local centers this past year, as they continue to increase the number of training sessions and services provided. Our partners are dedicated to meeting the needs of every family in Illinois, especially those in underserved communities. Parent Liaisons prove crucial to those efforts by organizing local service center family support groups.
TAP expanded its array of free online resources this year via a special promotion entitled “60 in 60.” These informational white papers discuss practical ways in which families can best support their children in a variety of scenarios. They are available in both English and Spanish and were developed by contributions from all of our network partners.
In 2012, TAP initiated support programs for Early Identification and Interventions and projects related to Transition from Adolescence to Adulthood. In 2013, we will sponsor several graduate student research projects related to ASD.
This year, we also developed new collaborations with organizations including Autism Inclusion Resources (AIR) and the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago, and began an initiative to bring services to Western Illinois University.
TAP is an essential and a vital part of all our communities. I would like to take this opportunity to thank each of you for your dedication to serving children and families who are living with ASD. Your continued support has been, and will continue to be, crucial as our network grows, not only in 2013, but for many years to come.
A happy and healthy New Year to you and your families,
Tara Glavin-Javaid, M.A., BCBA
Assistant Vice President of Chicago Programming
The Autism Program of Illinois
The Hope Institute for Children and Families