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Autism Foundation of Oklahoma Celebrates Certification of Arts Council OKC as Autism-Friendly Business

By News, Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Autism Foundation of Oklahoma Celebrates Certification of Arts Council OKC as Autism-Friendly Business

 

[Oklahoma City, OK]— The Autism Foundation of Oklahoma is thrilled to announce the successful certification of the Arts Council Oklahoma City as an autism-friendly business. This achievement marks a significant milestone in our ongoing mission to foster inclusive environments across the state.

Through dedicated efforts and comprehensive training, the Arts Council OKC has demonstrated its commitment to accessibility and inclusivity, ensuring that the arts are accessible to autistic Oklahomans. This certification signifies a major step toward creating a more welcoming community.

“One of the core tenets of our work is that the arts are accessible to all. This is most evident in our All Access Arts programs led by Nick Caudle and Liliana Gordon, who led the team in this certification process. On behalf of our board and staff, we are so proud to be an autism-friendly business, and we commit to incorporating the policies and procedures we learned in future execution of arts events and experiences,” said Executive Director Angela Cozby.

“We commend the Arts Council Oklahoma City for their dedication to becoming an autism-friendly organization. Their commitment sets a benchmark for inclusivity within the cultural sector and beyond,” said Kyle Britt, workforce development coordinator at the Autism Foundation of Oklahoma. “We look forward to seeing the positive impact this will have on our community, making the arts more accessible to all.”

The Autism Foundation of Oklahoma invites other organizations to follow in the footsteps of the Arts Council OKC by participating in our certification program and committing to inclusivity and accessibility for all individuals.

For more information about becoming an autism-friendly certified business, please contact Kyle Britt at kbritt@autismfoundationok.org.

About the Autism Foundation of Oklahoma:

Improving the lives of Oklahomans with autism and their families across the lifespan.

www.autismfoundationok.org

About the Arts Council OKC:

https://www.artscouncilokc.com/

For media inquiries:

Kyle Britt

Kbritt@autismfoundationok.org

 

Masonic Charity Foundation of Oklahoma Grants $50,000 to Autism Foundation of Oklahoma

By News, Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Masonic Charity Foundation of Oklahoma Grants $50,000 to Autism Foundation of Oklahoma

[Oklahoma, Feb. 20th] – The Autism Foundation of Oklahoma (AFO) is thrilled to announce the generous donation of $50,000 from the Masonic Charity Foundation of Oklahoma. This significant contribution will directly support the Foundation’s initiatives on early childhood and public safety programs for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

The Masonic Charity Foundation of Oklahoma’s commitment to philanthropy and community betterment aligns seamlessly with the AFO’s mission of improving the lives of Oklahomans with autism and their families across the lifespan. This substantial grant will enable AFO to expand and improve its early childhood programs, fostering a supportive environment for children with autism and their families by training childcare providers.

Additionally, the funds will contribute to AFO’s public safety initiatives, which aim to increase awareness, understanding, and response effectiveness in interactions with individuals on the autism spectrum. Training and education programs for law enforcement, emergency responders, and the broader community will be strengthened, creating safer and more inclusive communities for individuals with ASD.

“We are honored to give a grant again this year to the Autism Foundation of Oklahoma,” said John Logan, Executive Director of the Masonic Charity Foundation of Oklahoma. “AFO is providing vital resources across Oklahoma, and we are proud to support their efforts.”

“We are deeply grateful for the Masonic Charity Foundation of Oklahoma’s commitment to positively impacting the lives of Oklahomans with autism. Their gift will allow us to expand our reach and effectiveness in supporting early childhood development and enhancing public safety for the autism community,” said Emily Scott, Executive Director of the Autism Foundation of Oklahoma.

The Autism Foundation of Oklahoma sincerely appreciates the Masonic Charity Foundation of Oklahoma for its invaluable support. This collaboration exemplifies the power of community partnerships in creating meaningful change and fostering inclusivity for individuals with autism.

To learn more about the Autism Foundation of Oklahoma, please visit www.autismfoundationok.org.

For media inquiries, please contact:

Carley Marissa Dummitt

Marketing & Community Outreach Coordinator

cdummitt@autismfoundationok.org

News Feature: Bill Seeks to Improve Interactions Between Oklahomans with Autism and First Responders

By News, Press Release

Watch the story HERE

If a new bill passes next legislative session, Oklahomans with autism may soon have the option to share their diagnosis on their driver’s license or state ID.

State Rep. Nicole Miller (R-Edmond) tells Fox 25 she wants to improve the relationship between Oklahomans who have autism and first responders.

“Really to kind of prevent the escalation of there being a misunderstanding there,” State Rep. Miller said.

House Bill 3671 would give Oklahomans with autism the option to have an identifying mark on their driver’s license and state ID.

“To help them communicate or indicate to law enforcement in any interactions that they might communicate differently than many other people would.”

Miller got this idea from Emily Scott.

“This is all so personal to me,” Scott said. “I have an adult son on the spectrum who I want to keep safe.”

As someone who also serves as the executive director for the Autism Foundation of Oklahoma (AFO), Scott says people with the diagnosis are seven times more likely to interact with law enforcement than the general population.

“National data tells us that about one in every three autistic teenagers are getting a driver’s license. So with an ever-increasing population, we want to make sure to keep Oklahomans with autism safe.”

It’s why the bill touches on having safety experts train law enforcement officers to identify and effectively communicate with someone who has autism. The legislation says the Department of Public Safety (DPS), in consultation with Service Oklahoma and Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training (CLEET), must develop a program.

“With all the different pieces of information,” State Rep. Miller said. “Just education piece of communication disorders, and what that looks like.”

Scott says having everyone on the same page during this situation is so important.

“One can frankly Google ‘autism and police interactions,’ and see a lot of concerning stories nationwide of instances that have happened. So we also view this as a preventative measure. We don’t want stories like that coming out of Oklahoma.”

This bill would also require Service Oklahoma to create a statewide registry that officers could access. It would have license plate and registration information, emergency contacts and any other information that may help first responders when interacting with someone who has autism. Someone who submits their information to the registry would be allowed to revise, update or remove themselves at anytime.

Service Oklahoma shared the following statement with Fox 25:

Service Oklahoma administers driver license services on behalf of the state. We will continue to do so in accordance with all laws and statues passed by the legislature.

DPS tells Fox 25 “we don’t comment on bills that are not DPS bills.”

AFO shared the following facts about autism and first responder interactions:

  • According to the CDC, 1 in 36 children and 1 in 45 adults in the U.S. have autism.
  • In the U.S., almost 20% of youth with autism report having police contact by age 21.
  • A 2019 study of autistic adults with few support needs found that 53% of participants had four or more interactions with the police in their lifetime.
  • A 2020 study found that officers who had more knowledge about autism felt they were better equipped to handle interactions with autistic people.
  • Research indicates that persons with developmental disabilities, including autism, will have up to seven times more contacts with law enforcement than a member of the general population. These contacts can be public safety emergencies or criminal justice situations.

 

Miller Files Bill Creating Optional Autism Designator on Licenses, State IDs

By News, Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contact:

Carley M. Dummitt

cdummitt@autismfoundationok.org

Miller Files Bill Creating Optional Autism Designator on Licenses, State IDs

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahomans with autism may soon have the option to include an identifying mark on their driver’s licenses and state IDs to help better inform law enforcement officers how to approach a situation.

House Bill 3671, filed by Rep. Nicole Miller, R-Edmond, would create an optional identifying mark to indicate that the person has autism, which Oklahomans may choose to participate in. Miller led an interim study on this topic in October to hear from advocates and law enforcement officials.

“Law enforcement may interpret some behaviors common in people with autism as noncompliance, which could lead to unnecessary escalation and put people at heightened risk,” Miller said. “This voluntary designation would help law enforcement better understand how to approach a situation and reduce stress for the driver and their loved ones.”

Data from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that one in 36 children and one in 46 adults in the U.S. have autism.

Emily Scott, the executive director of the Autism Foundation of Oklahoma, said one in three people with autism has a driver’s license. The bill also includes state IDs.

“People with autism are seven times more likely to have police interactions than a neurotypical person,” Scott said. “This bill aims to provide critical, up-front information to law enforcement officers and first responders for safer and more supportive interactions. Knowledge is power, and plenty of research indicates that communication tools, such as what is being proposed in this bill, and agency-wide autism training improve outcomes for both parties.”

HB3671 is eligible for consideration in the upcoming legislative session, which begins Monday, February 5.

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Autism Foundation of Oklahoma Launches 2023 Autism-Friendly Gift Guide

By News, Press Release

Media Contact:

Carley M. Dummitt, Marketing and Community Outreach Coordinator

 

Autism Foundation of Oklahoma Launches 2023 Autism-Friendly Gift Guide

 

(Oklahoma) (December 12, 2023) The Autism Foundation of Oklahoma has launched its 2023 Autism-Friendly Gift Guide, a comprehensive collection of sensory-friendly gifts tailored for individuals on the autism spectrum.  This unique gift guide curates a selection of thoughtful and inclusive presents available for purchase from major online retailers and local stores in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Each item featured in the guide has been carefully chosen to accommodate sensory needs while fostering engagement and enjoyment for autistic individuals.

“With the holiday season upon us, we aim to provide a resource that not only simplifies gift-giving but also promotes understanding and inclusivity,” said  Carley Dummitt, Marketing and Community Outreach Coordinator for the Autism Foundation of Oklahoma. “The gift guide showcases products that cater to sensory preferences, ensuring a meaningful and enjoyable experience for autistic individuals.”

The curated collection encompasses a diverse range, from sensory toys and art projects to educational games and calming tools. By featuring online retailers and local stores, AFO aims to make these autism-friendly gifts readily accessible to the community.

The 2023 Autism-Friendly Gift Guide is now free on the Autism Foundation of Oklahoma’s website: https://www.autismfoundationok.org/blog/afo-2023-gift-guide/.   For further information or to access the guide, please visit ww.autismfoundationok.org or contact cdummitt@autismfoundationok.org

 

About the Autism Foundation of Oklahoma:

The Autism Foundation of Oklahoma strives to improve the lives of Oklahomans with autism and their families across the lifespan. To learn more, visit www.autismfoundationok.org or follow them online at @AutismFoundationOK.

Tulsa Community College Completes Neurodiversity in the Workplace Training

By News, Press Release

For Immediate Release

Media Contact:

Carley Dummitt, Marketing & Community Outreach Coordinator

cdummitt@autismfoundationok.org

 

Tulsa Community College Completes Neurodiversity in the Workplace Training

(Tulsa, Oklahoma, November 20th) The Tulsa Community College Human Resources Department recently completed LEAD, a neurodiversity in workplace training series provided by the Autism Foundation of Oklahoma (AFO). The Developmental Disabilities Council of Oklahoma awarded AFO a grant to support its mission to increase employment opportunities for individuals with autism and intellectual/developmental disabilities. LEAD, a neurodiversity in the workplace training series, is designed to raise awareness of neurodiversity, educate employers on the benefits of a neurodiverse workforce, and assist employers in building inclusive work environments for individuals with neurological differences.

On November 17, Workforce Development Coordinator Kyle Britt presented TCC Chief Human Resources Officer Evan Jewsbury with a certificate recognizing the TCC HR Department for completing LEAD training and their efforts to create an inclusive and accommodating working environment for individuals with autism and intellectual/developmental disabilities.

“The TCC Human Resources department appreciated the training provided by the Autism Foundation of Oklahoma’s LEAD program. The content invited us to reflect on our processes, procedures, and environment and how to change things to be more inclusive for neurodiverse people. These inclusive practices make the workplace better for everyone.” says Ceci Martin-Smith, Director of Employee and Organizational Development for TCC.

“Young adults on the autism spectrum face the highest unemployment rates of any disability category, although many of these individuals are eager to enter the workforce. There is a large pool of qualified and talented autistic employees available to employers who are committed to the inclusion of neurodiverse talent. Through this training series on neurodiversity in the workplace provided directly to employers, AFO expects to see increased employment opportunities for individuals with autism and intellectual or other developmental disabilities, “says Kyle Britt, AFO Workforce Development Coordinator.

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 www.autismfoundationok.org

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AFO Receives Funding to Identify and Improve School Services for Families, Toddlers, and Preschoolers

By News, Press Release

For Immediate Release

Media Contact:

Carley M. Dummitt

cdummitt@autismfoundatonok.org

 

Autism Foundation of Oklahoma Receives Funding to Identify and Improve Services for Families, Toddlers, and Preschoolers

 

(Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) – (November 13, 2023) The Autism Foundation of Oklahoma (AFO) is participating in a statewide project designed to identify the needs of families with children born from 2019 through May 2023 to develop new or improve existing community resources and services. The project is known as Know and Grow Oklahoma: Building Resilient Children, Families & Communities.

“This is exciting because we know the pandemic presented challenges for all of us, no matter who we are or where we live. One such challenge for families with children born, adopted, or fostered during the pandemic is that these children did not experience the first few years of their lives like most children. Just as we work diligently to bring our world back to a new normal, here at AFO, we are focused on discovering what those new needs are for these families and their children,” says Emily Scott, Executive Director of AFO.

The short-term, $10,000 contract with the Potts Family Foundation (PFF) based in Oklahoma City allows AFO to bring together a coalition of known providers serving our community’s families and children. The groups will work with community members to initiate engagements, build relationships, and collect feedback. The coalition may host a booth at a community event, conduct one-on-one interviews with parents, grandparents, other caregivers, and community leaders, circulate surveys, or host focus groups. This project is supported by ARPA funds appropriated by the Oklahoma legislature and in collaboration with the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

Being pregnant and caring for an infant or toddler in an unfamiliar world presented unprecedented challenges for parents, caregivers, and families. It was also unfamiliar and challenging for those who typically provide parenting support. However, with all difficulties, there are also new experiences that bring positive changes and growth. “This is what we want to learn from our fellow community members who had these experiences. We want to know how the children and their families are doing and if there are unmet needs that groups like ours in the community can respond to in support of our children and their families,” commented Emily Scott.

“What is most exciting about this project with PFF is the inclusion of rural communities often overlooked when such projects are implemented. Many in our coalition have expressed appreciation to PFF for developing a statewide project to create a better quality of life for all Oklahoma children and families. We are 1 of 15 coalitions statewide serving about 34 counties, of which the majority are rural communities. This is very exciting,” said Emily Hayes, Early Childhood and Social Inclusion Program Director at AFO.

The Potts Family Foundation received funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) as part of its mission, focusing on early childhood initiatives. This project aims to improve the well-being of and build resilience in children born right before or during the pandemic. Joining AFO in this project is Parent Promise. The work will occur between now and the end of the year and includes Oklahoma County. To get involved and be part of this community-led project, contact Carley Dummitt at cdummitt@autismfoundationok.org. Join the conversation at www.knowandgrowok.org or on Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn using @knowandgrowok.

The Autism Foundation of Oklahoma strives to improve the lives of Oklahomans with autism across the lifespan. To learn more, visit www.autismfoundationok.org.

Potts Family Foundation is a private foundation focusing on providing support for sustainable early childhood initiatives with an emphasis on root causes, empowering people and organizations, impacting future as well as present human needs, leveraging resources for the greatest impact, and securing sustainability and the potential replication of early childhood programs and services. The foundation was established in 1980 and is based in Oklahoma City.

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AFO Enhances Support for Autistic Community with Sensory Kits Donation

By News, Press Release

For Immediate Release

Media Contact:

Carley M. Dummitt

cdummitt@autismfoundationok.org

 

AFO Enhances Support for Autistic Community with Sensory Kits Donation

 

(Edmond, Oklahoma) – The Autism Foundation of Oklahoma (AFO) is proud to announce that it has been awarded a generous grant from the Edmond Women’s Club (EWC) to provide essential Sensory Kits to the Edmond Police Department and Fire Department.

These portable kits, designed to assist autistic individuals in regulating and communicating during overwhelming situations, contain various items to enhance sensory experiences and promote comfort. Sensory Kits can be crucial in aiding autistic individuals, providing them with tools to manage sensory challenges and improve communication. AFO is dedicated to making these kits accessible to those who need them. Individuals interested in purchasing Sensory Kits can visit the AFO website at www.autismfoundationok.org.

The Autism Foundation of Oklahoma has long been committed to supporting individuals with autism and their families. One of AFO’s key initiatives is providing law enforcement and first responders with specialized training and resources to serve the autistic community in Oklahoma better. This recent donation of Sensory Kits to the Edmond Police Department and Fire Department is a significant step towards achieving this mission. By equipping law enforcement and first responders with the necessary tools and knowledge, the organization aims to create a more compassionate and informed community.

“We are deeply grateful to the Edmond Women’s Club for their generous support, which enables us to expand our outreach efforts and provide valuable resources to law enforcement and first responders,” said Emily Scott, Executive Director of the Autism Foundation of Oklahoma. “At AFO, we are dedicated to improving the lives of individuals with autism, and this donation will help us create a safer and more supportive environment for the autistic community in Edmond and beyond.”

The Autism Foundation of Oklahoma strives to improve the lives of Oklahomans with autism across the lifespan. To learn more, visit www.autismfoundationok.org

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