Special Needs Network, Inc. (SNN) is a nonprofit grassroots organization responding to the crisis of autism and other developmental disabilities in underserved communities. Our long list of programs and campaigns address issues from both a top-down approach – by changing government legislation; and bottom-up – by collaborating directly with parents, caretakers, and healthcare professionals who work with children with developmental disabilities.
Declared an epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism has taken and continues to take its toll on families across the nation. Did you know that more than 17% percent of all children under the age of 18 suffer from some form of developmental disability? Or that after mental retardation, autism is the most common developmental disorder? Today, one in every 88 children in the United States has autism, and in California, 13 children are diagnosed each day – that’s one child every two hours.
Yet, nowhere is autism’s impact felt more than in underserved communities, where diagnosis is delayed on average two years. Given that early identification and intervention are paramount to the developing brain of children with autism, this two-year delay is especially devastating, as it denies thousands of vulnerable children the benefits of early diagnosis and intervention. This can mean the difference between a child who may someday live independently, and a child destined for a life of institutionalized care. The alarming delay in diagnosis becomes even more detrimental when compounded by issues of poverty, such as a lack of housing, employment, and transportation.
This is the reality faced by families in underserved communities who are affected by autism and other developmental disabilities.
If you are one of these families, Special Needs Network is here to help you and your child. In taking steps to mitigate issues caused by the current socio-economic gap, we are dedicated to helping those who are most in need by providing direct services, raising awareness, and engaging in policy advocacy.
Not only are all of our family-centered programs free, almost all of them include free professional childcare, meals, and in some cases even transportation.
Our work has been widely featured in the media including The Dr. Phil Show (CBS), The Doctors (CBS), Parents magazine, Redbook magazine, The Los Angeles Times, and many other venues. We have also received numerous awards and accolades from local, state, and national elected officials including US Senator Barbara Boxer, Congresswomen Karen Bass, Maxine Waters, and Diane Watson (Ret.), CA Senators Darrell Steinberg, Ted Lieu, and Curren D. Price, Jr., Assemblymembers Holly J. Mitchell, Mike Davis, and Steve Bradford, LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, LA City Controller Wendy Greuel, LA City Council President Herb Wesson, Jr. These legislators have praised SNN for our innovation, leadership, and efficacy.
As an organization on the forefront of policy advocacy, our dynamic campaigns are the cornerstones of our work. Last year, we co-sponsored and helped pass California’s first autism insurance mandate bill (SB 946), which requires insurance companies to cover mental health services. Always looking to expand our outreach, we are gearing up for 2012 to be our biggest year yet with the launch of two advocacy campaigns – Equality for Our Kids and Stepping Stones – as well as the opening of a School-Based Health Clinic – the first-ever full service developmental disability center in Los Angeles. Developed in collaboration with St. John’s Well Child and Family Center, this free clinic will provide a medical home for kids and young adults with autism, learning disabilities, ADHD, emotional and behavioral disorders, and other related developmental disabilities.