LOS ANGELES, Calif. (April 2, 2019) – Special Needs Network (SNN), a California-based autism advocacy organization kicks off World Autism Day and Autism Awareness Month with a social media campaign and series of free events designed to raise awareness and provide support to those affected by autism. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism is a neurological condition that now impacts 1 in 59 children that has its root in early brain development, although there is no known cause or cure.
“Autism Awareness Month provides a unique opportunity for organizations all over the world to come together to support more research, diagnosis, treatment and support individuals with autism,” says Areva Martin, SNN’s president and co-founder. “Nowhere is that support needed more than in South Los Angeles, where families often lack access to high-quality health care and educational support.”
According to Martin, “SNN is laser-focused on decreasing the well-documented disparities in regional center and educational services that have plagued this area.”
Following its social media campaign, on April 7, SNN parents will be at 10 area churches for a faith-based day where the nonprofit is asking pastors and congregants to recognize special needs families and the unique ways that they may worship.
Additionally, special needs families and the LA community are encouraged to join SNN on April 13, at Kenneth Hann State Recreation Park for a family fun day and a 5K walk/run. Sponsored in part by Anthem Blue Cross Foundation, this event will include family resources, games, free health screenings, music, exercise, arts and crafts and more.
On April 27, SNN will offer a full day of training at its signature “Tools for Transformation” conference at the Wayfinder Center.
“Parents of special needs students are entitled to free evaluations and therapies under state and federal law, but accessing those services can be difficult for families,” says Martin. “During our Tools for Transformation event, we will help these families navigate California regional centers, IEPs and private health insurance.”
Special education attorneys, psychologists and other professionals will guide parents and professionals through the process of securing educational services, planning for transition from high school, and identifying job training and independent living skills.
Daniel Gewschind, MD, PhD, a distinguished professor of neurology and psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA will open the conference with an update on the state of his ongoing genetic research study that focuses on African American families. Dr. Gewschind launched his study in 2013 which is funded by a $15 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Since that time, SNN has been actively assisting Dr. Gewschind in recruiting special needs families to participate in the study.
According to Martin, African American children with autism are less likely than their Caucasian peers to receive an early diagnosis. “We know that early intervention is crucial to helping autistic children thrive,” says Martin. “Dr. Geschwind’s research will allow us to better understand how this disorder impacts African American children and develop stronger resources for these children.”
On April 23, the LA County Board of Supervisors will recognize April as Autism Awareness Month throughout the county with a formal resolution. The resolution will precede an April 29 ground-breaking ceremony for the SNN Center for Autism and Related Disorder Center which will occupy the second floor of the Child and Family Well-Being Center at the Martin Luther King Jr. Medical Campus. The new autism center will provide much-needed comprehensive developmental and emotional assessments, ABA, speech and occupational therapy, routine medical checkups and care, and innovative interventions for free or low cost. The clinic will also offer a range of social services included family counseling, wellness classes and advocacy training.
“This center is our answer to the current inequities in South LA,” says Martin. “More than one-third of the adults in South LA are uninsured and over 14 percent are unemployed. That’s more than double the rate of West LA residents and a disparity that must be addressed. Statistics like that trickle down and impact not just the adult but his or her entire family and for families with special needs and disabilities, that can put a tremendous burden on their livelihood.”
SNN’s announcement about its events and community-based initiatives comes at the same time Sesame Street announces its rollout of new characters and resources for families in honor of Autism Awareness Month.
“I applaud Sesame Street for their initiative to ensure the show’s programming represents an inclusive and diverse lineup of characters,” says Martin. “Their initiative is centered on the fact that all children have unique perspectives and talents that help make the world a richer and more interesting place. I couldn’t agree more.”
ABOUT SPECIAL NEEDS NETWORK
Special Needs Network is based in Los Angeles and is California’s leading grassroots autism advocacy organization. SNN was established to help individuals and families faced with autism and other developmental disabilities. The organization focuses on raising public awareness, impacting public policy, increasing education and access to resources for families, children and adults. Since its inception, SNN has served more than 40,000 individuals and families impacted by autism.
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