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Autism Day at the Oklahoma State Capitol to be Held April 6th , 2021

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The 5th Annual Autism Advocacy Day at the Oklahoma State Capitol is set for April 6th from 9 AM to Noon. “Many Pieces, One Voice”, a virtual celebration and autism educational experience, is available to all who want to learn about autism policy and advocacy opportunities. A panel discussion with state lawmakers about the issues that matter most to individuals with autism and their families is slated. The panel includes Senator Carri Hicks, Senator Julia Kirt, Representative Jacob Rosecrants, Representative Randy Randleman, and Representative Collin Walke.

Other agenda items include the reading of proclamations, local and national legislation updates, and information on the state of autism early identification and intervention, transition from high school to post-secondary education and employment, and adulthood in Oklahoma.

April is World Autism Month and highlights the expansive and ever-growing effort to promote autism acceptance, inclusion, and self-determination for all, assuring that each person with autism is provided the opportunity to achieve the best possible quality of life.

This event is hosted by the Autism Foundation of Oklahoma, AutismOklahoma.org, Oklahoma Autism Center, Oklahoma Autism Network, Oklahoma Family Network, Arc of Oklahoma, Autistic Adults of Oklahoma, and Pervasive Parenting Center. Several state agencies, nonprofits, and service providers will share information, engage families, and educate lawmakers on the needs of Oklahoma’s autism community. Participants can register for virtual access at www.AutismAdvocacyDayOK.EventBrite.com.

Autism is a complex, lifelong developmental disability that typically appears during early childhood and can impact a person’s social skills, communication, relationships, and self regulation. According to the CDC, autism affects an estimated 1 in 54 children and 1 in 45 adults across all racial, ethic, and socioeconomic groups.

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Statewide Autism Nonprofit Expands Mission, Looks to Future

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The Autism Foundation of Oklahoma (AFO), formerly known as the Oklahoma Autism Center Foundation, has announced updates to their organization’s name and mission statement to reflect their commitment to serve Oklahomans with autism across the lifespan.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges. ASD occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. In 2020, the CDC reported that approximately 1 in 54 children in the U.S. has been diagnosed with the disorder.

Since 2011, the Autism Foundation of Oklahoma (AFO) has aimed to improve the quality of life for children with autism and their families through program support for the Oklahoma Autism Center (OAC), a program of the Child Study Center at the University of Oklahoma’s Health Sciences Center. While this commitment remains unchanged, according to Executive Director Emily Scott, AFO has continued to grow concerned over a reported lack of opportunity and services for children with ASD as they transition from early-intervention and school-based services to adulthood.

“After a decade of supporting the OAC’s critically important early- identification and intervention programs, we couldn’t help but notice the number of families who would call back years later in a desperate search for services and support for their now a teen or adult. High rates of unemployment, low participation in education beyond high school, and a lack of community living options for adults with ASD are major issues for this community nationally and here at home. Oklahoma’s rural families can especially attest to this.”

To maximize their impact, AFO spent the last half of 2019 engaging stakeholders statewide to develop a 10-year strategic plan. From a series of listening sessions, professional interviews and a statewide survey, the organization began implementing their plan in 2020 with a new mission statement: to support the Oklahoma Autism Center and other initiatives that improve the quality of life for Oklahomans with autism and their families.

“As Oklahomans with autism make plans for a career, family, and future, they often encounter artificial barriers on the path to self-sufficiency,” said AFO Board Chair Ed Long. “We are committed to working with partners across the state to remove these barriers and ensure that everyone has an opportunity to live their best life. Whether we are talking about post-secondary education, competitive employment, or public safety, a simple lack of awareness and understanding may have tremendously negative consequences for so many of our neighbors for whom there are no real limitations.”

About Autism Foundation of Oklahoma

The Autism Foundation of Oklahoma is a non-profit organization, qualified under Section 501(c)(3) of the United States Internal Revenue Code and organized to support the Oklahoma Autism Center and other initiatives that improve the quality of life for Oklahomans with autism and their families. AFO’s programs provide education, advocacy, professional development, technical assistance, and family support for Oklahoma’s autism community and their families.

Media Contact

Emily Scott
Executive Director
escott@autismfoundationok.org
(405)434-5507

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OACF Receives Grant from The Masonic Charity Foundation of Oklahoma

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The Masonic Charity Foundation of Oklahoma has generously granted $25,000 to the Oklahoma Autism Center Foundation (OACF). This gift will help our organization to provide outreach, education, and resource connections to children and families living in rural Oklahoma.  OACF’s mission is to improve the quality of life for Oklahomans with autism spectrum disorder and their families through advocacy, awareness, and support for the Oklahoma Autism Center. 

“We are incredibly grateful to the Masonic Charitable Foundation of Oklahoma for their recognition of our work and support of our mission,” said Emily Scott, Executive Director of OACF. “Their gift will allow children and families to gain access to critical information on the importance of early screenings, early intervention, and connecting with knowledgeable service providers in their local communities.” 

“The assistance and support provided to families, healthcare providers, and educators by the Oklahoma Autism Center is inspiring,” said John Logan, Executive Director of the Masonic Charity Foundation. “We believe that there is a need in our community for such incredible programming and that all children should receive the supports they need to reach their fullest potential.”

Established in 2011 to provide funding for the Oklahoma Autism Center (OAC), the Oklahoma Autism Center Foundation has quickly grown to provide increased support for the OAC’s three main programs, Early Access, Early Foundations, and the MESA Project. The Oklahoma Autism Center provides an inclusive pre-school replication model, autism screenings, student internships, and professional development training for public school educators. In 2019, the Foundation completed a ten-year strategic plan for increasing the OAC and OACF’s outreach statewide to meet the growing demand for autism services for both children and adults. For more information about this plan or the Masonic Charity Foundation of Oklahoma, visit www.autismcenterok.org or www.MCFOK.org