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Autism Foundation of Oklahoma Awarded Grant to Develop Autism Training for Employers

By Press Release No Comments

The Developmental Disabilities Council of Oklahoma (DDCO) has awarded the Autism Foundation of Oklahoma (AFO) a grant to support its mission to increase employment opportunities for individuals with autism and other disabilities. AFO hopes to reach all four quadrants of the state of Oklahoma within the first three years of the project, effectively including and accommodating individuals with autism in recruitment, hiring, and employment retention.

AFO will develop, implement, and market a 4-part training series to raise awareness of neurodiversity and effective management practices for participating employers. The training will be certificate-based and include membership into a network of trained employers for future candidates to consider.

“Finding meaningful employment after high school is a major source of concern for families across the state. More than half of young adults with autism remain unemployed and unenrolled in higher education two years after high school, which is a lower rate than young adults in all other disability categories. By increasing employer knowledge of autism and other related disabilities, AFO seeks to decrease the number of neurodiverse adults who are unemployed or under-employed in our state,” says Emily Scott, AFO Executive Director.

“The Developmental Disabilities Council of Oklahoma believes in the vision of this project as it pushes us closer to our mission of advancing communities where everyone has the opportunity to live, learn, work, and play where they choose. Employment is one of the most significant ways to improve an individual’s quality of life. It enables individuals to contribute to society through meaningful connections and economic sufficiency. DDCO is proud to partner with AFO in this effort,” states Jen Randle, DDCO Executive Director.

Additionally, AFO will develop a plan and infrastructure to provide ongoing support to employers who complete the training series, including requests for workplace accommodations assistance, sensitivity training, and navigating unique employee situations.

NOTE: The public is being asked to help AFO with a needs-based assessment for this project. These surveys should take you no longer than 5-10 minutes (each) to complete and AFO sincerely appreciates your participation.

Survey for individuals, family members, and caregivers: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/employingtheneurodiverse 

Survey for employers: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/LPXXMPB 

For questions or more information, contact Leah Harris, Project Coordinator, at LHarris@AutismFoundationOK.org.

sensory-kits-first-responders

Autism Foundation of Oklahoma Launches Sensory Kits for First Responders

By Mental Health, Press Release No Comments

With support from local and national partners, the Autism Foundation of Oklahoma (AFO) now offers sensory kits for first responders, businesses, and community organizations to better serve Oklahomans on the autism spectrum.

Research shows that sensory kits can effectively increase critical communication and comfort for individuals with autism and other special needs in new and high-stress situations. AFO’s sensory kits contain a weighted lap pad, noise-canceling headphones, sunglasses, picture communication cards, activity books, a notepad and pen, and several handheld fidgets for all ages.

AFO recently received several grants totaling $6,500 from Walmart stores in Norman, Moore, Mustang, and Newcastle. Executive Director Emily Scott credits Brandan Branum, General Manager of store #7294 in Norman, for helping AFO turn an idea into reality, “Brandan played a pivotal role in helping AFO get our sensory kits out into the community. I called his store last summer to request a single product donation, and he did us one better by sharing our story with his colleagues.”

Branum had one small request of AFO when the kits were ready, “I asked whether our store’s local police department could receive a kit. Many of our customers have a loved one with autism. I have a child on the spectrum, and my wife is an autism therapist. Anything we can do to help our local first responders better assist those with special needs is a good thing,” said Branum.

“After months of navigating supply chain issues and shipment delays, it was a great feeling to finally call Brandan back and invite him to help us donate kits to Norman Police,” said Scott. “We wanted him to see in-person what he helped kick-start.”

“We are grateful for the generosity of our community partners like the Autism Foundation of Oklahoma and Walmart. These sensory kits provide an additional resource for our officers when they contact individuals with autism or other special needs. Resources such as these are crucial for helping all individuals in need during an emergency or high-stress situation and the steps that follow. We hope to be able to expand the program and increase the number of kits in patrol vehicles and interview rooms moving forward to ensure an inclusive experience.” – Chief Kevin Foster

In addition to Walmart, AFO has received gifts from Baker Speech Clinic, the Masonic Charity Foundation of Oklahoma, MUDD Printing, and the St. Louis Cardinals for this project. The sensory sits are available for purchase on AFO’s website.

autism-foundation-of-oklahoma-receives-support-from-the-masonic-charity-foundation-of-oklahoma

The Autism Foundation of Oklahoma Receives Support from the Masonic Charity Foundation of Oklahoma

By Press Release No Comments

The Masonic Charity Foundation of Oklahoma (MCFOK) has generously awarded $25,000 to the Autism Foundation of Oklahoma (AFO) to help educate and provide autism resources to law enforcement professionals. This significant gift will help AFO provide professional development opportunities, interactive community events, and sensory kits for first responders.

A recent study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders found that 1 in 5 young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) will be stopped and questioned by police before the age 21. Young people with autism and a serious psychiatric condition are nine times more likely to have an encounter with law enforcement. Other common contact scenarios may involve elopement, abuse or neglect, and accusations of suspicious behavior.

“We are incredibly grateful to MCFOK for supporting our efforts to keep autistic Oklahomans safe in their communities,” said Emily Scott, Executive Director of AFO. “This gift will provide law enforcement agencies with critical information and resources to improve outcomes at the scene of an emergency or mental health crisis.”

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

The Autism Foundation of Oklahoma is a 501c3 nonprofit with a mission 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.

afo-receives-grant-to-educate-childcare-workers

The Autism Foundation of Oklahoma Receives Grant to Educate Childcare Workers

By Press Release No Comments

The Autism Foundation of Oklahoma (AFO) recently received a $25,000 grant from Inasmuch Foundation to pilot a training program for childcare providers to support children with autism. Through collaborative partnership with Sunbeam Family Services, AFO will create an introductory training for childcare providers to better understand autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and connect families to local resources.

The role of a childcare provider is an important one for many families. However, 39% of parents of children with ASD report that childcare impacted their employment decisions. This is 7 times higher than that of families without children with ASD. In a recent Oklahoma needs assessment, it was found that 41% of parents of children with ASD depend on relatives for childcare and 25% of families reported that one parent had to cease employment in order to care for children.

“Awareness and identification are a key piece of improving access to early intervention services for children at risk for autism spectrum disorder. The signs of autism typically appear in early development and childcare providers can often be the first person in a child’s life to recognize key indicators”, said AFO Executive Director Emily Scott.

“We value the importance of community partnerships and this work with the Autism Foundation is an example of coming together to serve families of central Oklahoma,” said Sunbeam Chief Program Officer Paula Gates.

“Oklahoma children and families will significantly benefit from the Autism Foundation and Sunbeam Family Services’ collaborative training endeavor,” said Inasmuch Foundation Vice President of Programs Sarah Roberts. “Since early intervention can change a child’s developmental path and improve lifelong outcomes, this type of training is imperative for childcare providers in our state.”

The Autism Foundation of Oklahoma is a statewide organization with a mission to improve the lives of Oklahomans with autism and their families. AFO’s programs areas address the lifespan, from early childhood development to workforce development and public safety initiatives. For additional information, visit www.AutismFoundationOK.org

Statewide Autism Nonprofit Expands Mission, Looks to Future

By News, Press Release No Comments

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