The national tragedy at Newtown, Connecticut and ensuing debate over misleading news reports involving autism marked the end of a year in which we recognized increased autism prevalence rates and a need to better focus our public education about autism and developmental disabilities. Despite the challenges our community faced in 2012, the new year has offered new hope for public awareness through several positive, high profile news stories.
At the end of 2012, Connor and Cayden Long were named the 2012 Sports Illustrated Kids Sportskids of the Year. Connor is the older brother of Cayden, who lives with cerebral palsy and autism. In mid-January, a video story of the Long brothers was posted on Facebook by Special Olympics Arizona, and went viral. Just one month later, the video has been shared by more than 400,000 facebook users and viewed by nearly 5 million people.
Later in January, the story of Miss Montana, Alexis Wineman, stormed the nation as she became the first contestant in the Miss America Competition to have been diagnosed with autism. Alexis captured the hearts of Americans and went on to be chosen as America’s Choice in the coveted competition.
In Newtown, Connecticut the family of Josephine Gay, a 7 year old diagnosed with autism and apraxia that lost her life in the shooting, established Joey’s Fund through the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism in Boston to honor their daughter by helping families raising children with autism.
These positive news stories and those generated through autism services, research and advocacy organizations nationwide have demonstrated that our community has the ability to turn every month into Autism Awareness Month.
It is fitting, in a new year marked by powerful stories that are breaking down negative public perceptions of autism, that TAP and our statewide network of partners should celebrate our 10th anniversary. Over the past ten years, the TAP service network has provided diagnostic, behavioral and educational services to tens of thousands of families throughout Illinois. As the largest statewide network of service and resource providers in the nation, our partners have demonstrated how agency collaboration and networked resources can improve the lives of those touched by autism.
Today I ask you to join me in celebrating the hard work of each our network partners as we continue our mission to educate our communities, strengthen services for the 1 in 88 children affected by autism, and work together to provide new opportunities to children and adults living with autism.
Tara Glavin-Javaid, M.A., BCBA
Assistant Vice President of Chicago Programming
The Autism Program of Illinois
The Hope Institute for Children and Families