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Autism Foundation of Oklahoma Offers Gift Giving Guide for the Holiday Season

By Autism, Holidays, News, Parenting, Press Release No Comments


Autism Foundation of Oklahoma

November 22, 2022

Autism Foundation of Oklahoma Offers Gift Giving Guide for the Holiday Season

The Autism Foundation of Oklahoma (AFO) has partnered with local retailers to offer holiday gift suggestions for those with loved ones that have autism and other neurodevelopmental disabilities.

From toddlers to teenagers, AFO’s first-ever gift-giving guide includes sensory-friendly and educational items available at Oklahoma City retailers The Learning Tree and Blue7. The guide also provides information about the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum’s Cowboy Kids Club. The museum recently became the first certified autism center in Oklahoma through the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES), a certification AFO also recently received.

Emily Hayes, Early Childhood Project Coordinator of the Autism Foundation of Oklahoma, comments, “Finding the perfect gift for loved ones can be challenging. Here at the Autism Foundation of Oklahoma, we want to help support and guide families to find gifts that can be both functional and fun. The items in our gift guide can help promote motor skills, sensory integration skills, social skills, language skills, and daily living skills while also being a fun, innovative item for the gift receiver.

The guide’s categories include sensory-friendly items, gifts to encourage movement, cognitive stimulation, and daily living support. Specialists specifically selected gifts found in this guide to promote unique skills. Depending upon age, gifts might emphasize sensory integration exploration, gross motor development, teaching cause and effect, hand-eye coordination, spatial reasoning, strengthening fine motor skills, tactile exploration and support of speech, color recognition, math, and language activities.


About Autism Foundation of Oklahoma

The Autism Foundation of Oklahoma’s mission is to improve the quality of life for Oklahomans with autism and their families. AFO’s programs provide education, advocacy, professional development, and individual and family support across the lifespan.

Media Contact

Emily Hayes, Project Coordinator / (918)527-7722


Autistic Unemployment Paradox

By Autism, News, Research 2 Comments

The Paradoxes of High Autistic Unemployment Series⎯Part 1

There seems to be a paradox with Autistic unemployment because it should not be as big a problem in reality. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a paradox is a statement that seems contradictory but contains hidden truth (Merriam-Webster, 2022). Indeed, there are supposed safeguards in place to ensure that Autistic individuals are not discriminated against yet still face it. Autism Unemployment was approximately 85% in 2021, and research shows that Autistic individuals face higher unemployment rates and social isolation than other disabilities (Palumbo, 2021). The discrimination can largely be found unconsciously, which makes it more difficult to identify and prove its existence. However, there are several barriers that Autistic people face when interviewing for a job that affects both the interviewer and interviewee. In this post, I will offer some reasons why there is such a high unemployment rate for Autistic individuals and offer my personal reflections.

To better grasp this paradox, it is important to recognize its origin and the flaws in its implementation. Notably, Autistic individuals qualify to be included as a protected class under the classification of physical or mental disability and are therefore protected from employment discrimination (Longley, 2022). Important to note is that disability is not meant to be a negative connotation but a means of identification for legal purposes to offer services and protections. Indeed, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a disability as a condition that impacts or limits a person’s ability to perform tasks or engage in activities (Merriam-Webster, 2022). With this in mind, Autism does affect or limit a person’s ability to engage in activities or perform tasks, namely interviewing. The reason is that Autism primarily impacts social skills, communication, and self-regulation, which can bring adverse reactions in an interview setting where the expectation is, unfortunately social.

Speaking of interviews, recruiters are not exempted from criticism because they also possess barriers that can make it more difficult to hire Autistic individuals. Namely, there are two hiring biases that recruiters can encounter: the horn effect and similarity attraction bias. First, the horn effect occurs when a recruiter makes a judgment about a candidate over a negative characteristic that clouds their assessment of them (Alexandra, 2020). In other words, a recruiter can unfairly assess an Autistic person’s ability to perform the job over “negative characteristics” they spot in an interview. Second, the similarity attraction bias occurs when a recruiter favors a candidate that appears to be similar to them and others in characteristics (Alexandra, 2020). In other words, the recruiter could discount an Autistic individual for a job because they do not meet the “prerequisite social conditions” that other candidates can meet. With this said, both types of hiring bias could be impeding Autistic individuals because they do not appear to be the “idealized candidate” and are discarded. However, notice that none of these “reasons” for discarding Autistic individuals have anything to do with them having the ability to perform the job and thus is unconscious discrimination.

Overall, I have personally encountered and seen other recruiters succumb to these types of hiring biases, and the worst part is that there are more biases that further impede progress towards inclusion. For example, I recall fellow recruiters mentioning more about a candidate’s personal and social characteristics rather than their ability to help the company grow and thrive. As a result, these subjective measurements are not helping the company onboard a diverse portfolio of candidates when they recruit others like them or those who “fit in”. Therefore, it is essential to be aware of the types of hiring biases and ensure that they are not being deployed unconsciously, and remember that the purpose of inclusion is not conformity.

Brandon Orozco is the AFO Workforce Development Project Assistant and holds a BS degree in Psychology with a dual minor in Philosophy and Business Management. Brandon is currently pursuing an MS in Human Resource Management from Claremont Graduate University and was the founder and President of the Professionals in Human Resources Association (PIHRA) student chapter. Brandon is an Autistic self-advocate and has previous experience being a Talent Acquisition Team Lead for a rising tech startup and enjoys sharing his lived experiences and perspectives. 


Alexandra (2021). 13 Common Hiring Biases To Watch Out For.

Longely, R (2022). What Is a Protected Class?,discriminated%20against%20on%20the%20basis%20of%20that%20trait.

Merrium-Webster (2022). Definition of disability.

Merrium-Webster (2022). Definition of Paradox.

Palumbo, J. (2021). Why Autism Speaks is encouraging companies to hire those on the Autistic Spectrum.


Autism Foundation of Oklahoma Awarded Grant to Develop Autism Training for Justice System Professionals

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The Autism Foundation of Oklahoma (AFO) was awarded a grant by the Oklahoma Bar Foundation (OBF) to develop training, resources, and expert guidance for Oklahoma’s justice system professionals. AFO’s goal is to assist professionals in better recognizing, understanding, and helping citizens with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in Oklahoma’s court system.

The U.S. Department of Justice reports that individuals with disabilities, including autism, are five times more likely to be incarcerated than those without disabilities. Although researchers agree that most individuals with ASD are law-abiding citizens who are more likely to be victims of crimes than to commit them, they are still seven times more likely to intersect with the criminal justice system than individuals without ASD. AFO recognizes that judicial professionals may struggle with how to best identify and interact with autistic clients or citizens in the courtroom.

“The court’s understanding of ASD can make an enormous difference in various juvenile, family, criminal, and other court cases. Legal professionals need access to ASD education, resources, and advocates with autism knowledge and experience to better service and protect this vulnerable population,” says AFO’s Executive Director, Emily Scott.

“The training funded by the OBF will enable lawyers and judges to better understand and interact with individuals on the autism spectrum who need legal representation and appear in court. It will positively impact both the quality of services rendered and case outcomes as these individuals experience our justice system,” says OBF’s Executive Director, Renee DeMoss.

Additionally, AFO is creating a free justice resource collection for their website that will include on-demand videos, social stories, and a network of advocates to assist the courts with understanding the communication, social, and behavioral characteristics of ASD.

The first five trainings will be held at Workflow Commons (916 NW 6th St. Oklahoma City, OK 73106) on the following dates:
o July 26; 10am-12pm
o August 23; 10am-12pm
o September 20; 10am-12pm
o October 25; 10am-12pm
o November 15; 10am-12pm

For registration information, contact AFO Project Coordinator Leah Harris at

About Autism Foundation of Oklahoma
The Autism Foundation of Oklahoma’s mission is to improve the quality of life for Oklahomans with autism and their families. AFO’s programs provide education, advocacy, professional development, and individual and family support for Oklahoma’s autism community. To learn more, visit

Media Contact
Leah Harris, Project Coordinator
1+(405) 237-8390

Autism Foundation of Oklahoma Receives a $100,000 grant from the Masonic Charity Foundation of Oklahoma

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The Masonic Charity Foundation of Oklahoma (MCFOK) has awarded $100,000 to the Autism Foundation of Oklahoma (AFO) for its Early Childhood and Public Safety programs. This generous gift will help AFO provide autism education and resources to childcare providers, law enforcement professionals, and emergency first responders throughout Oklahoma.

“In the last two years, AFO staff and volunteers have developed autism education for numerous professionals, including child care workers, law enforcement agents, and emergency first responders. Thanks to this significant gift from MCFOK, AFO will now be able to obtain the resources we need to launch these trainings statewide.”

“Not all persons on the autism spectrum can effectively communicate with first responders,” said John Logan, Executive Director of MCFOK. “We hope this grant will provide first responders, educators, and childcare professionals with additional tools to assist them in communicating with and responding to the needs of the autism community.”

The Autism Foundation of Oklahoma is a 501c3 nonprofit that aims to improve the lives of Oklahomans with autism and their families across the lifespan. AFO specializes in providing education, resources, and program support for early childhood development, workforce development, public safety, and criminal justice reform initiatives. For additional information, visit

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,, 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

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.

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


OACF Receives Grant from The Masonic Charity Foundation of Oklahoma

By News 4 Comments

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 or

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