This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the Autism Society of Greater Akron (ASGA), founded in 1992 by a network of volunteer parents seeking support and guidance with the autism journey. Today, we are still a strong parent network and are still part of the Autism Society of America’s network of affiliates that share a core mission, vision and goals; but a lot has also changed since 1992. We are proud that with the help of a lot of hard working autism moms and dads, we have gone from a parent volunteer network, to being the premier autism agency in the Greater Akron area.
It was only six years ago our affiliate committed to hiring staff to focus on the growing needs of our community. ASGA just finished its second strategic plan, which was implemented from 2013 – 2016, achieving and even surpassing the goals set at that time. There is always more work to do, but we have come a long way.
Here is a summary of the goals achieved based on the core services of the Autism Society:
Goal: Provide compassionate SUPPORT services that focus on effectively meeting the needs of individuals with autism, their families, and those who support them.
Help Line calls have grown to over 350 calls, emails and outreach contacts, resulting in some 1,000 hours annually spent providing information and referral to local services.
Coffee, Tea and Autism, peer led support groups, launched in 2014, grown to include seven support groups in five counties, including one for adults with ASD.
Expanded family activities to encompass greater community partnerships for more inclusive opportunities
- Inclusion Day at the Soap Box Derby (was Autism Awareness Day, launched 2013).
- Caring Santa, Caring Bunny at Summit Mall (Launched 2013)
- iCan Bike Camp (Launched 2012)
- Sensory Storytime, Akron-Summit Library (Launched 2013)
- On The Town, transition age program (Pilot 2016)
- Autism Day with the RubberDucks (2014, 2015)
- Various family recreational activities (Launched 2011)
Goal: Create a culture of advocacy that advances the discussion about autism, including societal issues impacting individuals with autism and their families (e.g., education, employment, housing and aging).
- Local advocacy focuses on understanding, tolerance and opportunities for persons with autism, especially during April, National Autism Awareness Month.
- Participate in ASA’s annual “Day on the Hill” representing Greater Akron to the Ohio Congressional Delegation.
- The Autism Summit, launched in 2015, focuses part of its conference on leadership and how to change systems for improved supports, programs, services.
- Autism Society of Ohio reorganized (2016) as coalition of Ohio affiliates to focus on state-wide advocacy and support.
- Autism 101 classes launched in 2013 to educate providers, employers, religious institutions, and others about interacting and supporting individuals with autism.
- Parent-Professional Exchange Workshops launched 2013 to provide educational opportunities for parents, professionals, and others who want to learn about autism.
- Autism Summit launched in 2015, includes evening at the Akron Civic open to the public with focus on individuals with autism: lecture, performances, art display, documentary…to share information with public about the needs of individuals with autism and their families. The following day’s conference is an educational opportunity to share information and learn from others and is held following day.
- National Autism Awareness Month (NAAM) was founded in the 1970’s with the work of the Autism Society of America. We send information about autism to schools and libraries throughout our service area, along with holding a number of activities, workshops and community partnership events to raise awareness and understanding of autism.
- Autism Ambassadors program was launched in 2013 to publicly acknowledge and honor those who support, serve and advocate for individuals with autism and their families.
Identify opportunities to strengthen operational and financial sustainability of the organization.
- One full-time and two part-time staff members focus on core programs and priorities.
- Structured Board of Directors to be matrix of board seats with attention to diversity, regional representation, and passion for the mission.
- Volunteer program grown to today’s 330 volunteers, with 1760 donated hours.
- Developed comprehensive fundraising that diversified from walk revenues.
- Annually achieve 100 percent board giving.
The 2017 – 2020 Strategic Plan is in the draft phase, so it’s a great time to say KUDOS to everyone along the way who helped our organization become what it is today, and to all of you that are helping us to become the agency of tomorrow.