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DJF Develops Essential Programs For Escalating Population Of Adults With Autism Spectrum Disorders

Author: DJF Foundation
Written On: Mon, 11 Jan 2010


National Autism Organization Tackles Growing Crisis of Adults with ASD By Developing and Funding New Community-Based Programs from Coast-to-Coast

New York – January 11, 2010 – The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation (DJF), the national autism organization that focuses exclusively on developing, advocating for and then supporting programs for adolescents and adults with autism, announces The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation Signature Programs in response to the critical needs of this burgeoning age group with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

"We need to focus on adults NOW and prepare to provide the one million individuals currently on the spectrum the best opportunities and support systems possible for their adult lives," says Linda Walder Fiddle, founder of the organization that bears the name of her son Danny who had ASD and passed away at age 9. For 2010, DJF is confronting this escalating need head on with innovative programs that are designed to be replicable models for community-based providers everywhere. (The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation is a volunteer-run 501(c)(3) national autism organization based in Ridgewood, NJ.

The latest Federal statistics show that 1 in 110 individuals is diagnosed with autism each year, an increase from the previously reported 1 in 150, according to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control. Two decades ago an autism diagnosis was one in 10,000 individuals. Today there are more than one million people who have been identified on the autism spectrum in the U.S.; approximately 80 percent are younger than 22. The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation is at the forefront of addressing the issues that will face these individuals in adult life.

DJF, the only national organization that focuses exclusively on program development and support for autism and adults, has been a primary national catalyst since 2002 in bringing the needs of adults with ASD to public awareness and has shared their findings and problem-solving ideas about adult issues with organizations that previously only focused on children or medical/diagnostic research. The foundation takes a unique, hands-on approach towards awarding grants, often reaching out to service providers and then helping them develop the programs it funds. "Awarding the grant is only part of our story," explains Walder Fiddle. "DJF is committed to identifying and filling the gaps in services for adults with ASD. Our ideas inspire the majority of the projects we fund and often ignite the entire process."

Michael John Carley, executive director of The Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership (GRASP), reports, "When Linda and I discussed how our organizations could partner, her first question was 'what needs are not being met?' When I told her we had several newly-realized Asperger's 'seniors' who were not comfortable in the younger age support groups, she suggested that we pilot a support group for the 60+ age group that specifically focuses on their needs and challenges. This will be the first such group in the United States and will underscore the fact that people with Asperger Syndrome come in all ages, and we need to support them throughout the lifespan."

In 2010, the DJF Board has decided to put a stake in the ground with some of its well-established collaborators nationwide, including: The New England Center for Children (MA); Vista Inspire Program (CA); Chapel Haven (CT); Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC) (AZ); The Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership (GRASP) (NY) by establishing a "Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation" named program that will assure these organizations' ongoing commitment to adults with ASD. Two additional long-time DJF programs will also join the group of signature programs: one is a hotline and resource guide; the other is family respite/weekends that include the participant with ASD and his/her family.

"One of the most important ways to increase opportunities for adults with ASD is for organizations to share information about programs that are successfully providing new avenues for participation in and contribution to society by those on the autism spectrum," says Walder Fiddle. The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation facilitates this collaboration through its signature programs, advocacy and communication platforms.

Among the recipients of a DJF 2010 Signature Grant is Chapel Haven, Inc., a renowned program for adults with ASD located in New Haven, Connecticut, and Tucson, Arizona. Its president Betsey J. Parlato had this to say about DJF: "In true social entrepreneurship style, The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation approached us with the innovative idea of conducting a study to determine what interventions would affect the health and wellness of adults on the autism spectrum. No entity has as yet studied this important component of supporting the ASD adult population. When completed, the outcomes of 'The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation Health and Wellness Program at Chapel Haven' could have a major impact on the industry that serves adults on the spectrum."

The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation Signature Programs focus on a range of issues identified by DJF during the past eight years. According to Walder Fiddle: "We have served on task forces, developed surveys and think tanks with collaborative groups and participated in symposiums where the needs of adults have been identified. We have actively listened to our own self advocate advisory board and other self advocates to get first-hand input on the challenges faced by them and their peers."

The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation Signature Programs will address such areas as:

--transition to adult life

--employment skills building

--health and wellness

--support for senior citizens with ASD

--self-advocacy training

--support for those in underserved communities

--recreation and cultural activities

--family support and community resources

In addition to the 2010 DJF Signature Programs, the foundation also will provide "seed" funding for one year to new endeavors that address even more cutting edge initiatives such as specialized training of college professors and mentors about ASD to accommodate the growing number of individuals with ASD who can pursue higher education, entrepreneurial endeavors in horticulture and farming, graphic design and computer training.

Says Walder Fiddle; "The alarming number of autism diagnoses in the nation underscores the critical need of providing services to the increasingly large adult autism population. We are preparing for the storm, so that we as a society are ready and able to handle the obstacles adults affected by ASD face. A primary focus of The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation is to raise awareness that autism is not just a childhood disorder; it is a challenge that spans a lifetime."