Pictured left to right: Marilyn Henn, Joseph Henn, Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro, Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh
The Autism Society of Greater Akron (ASGA) held its fourth annual Autism Summit kicking off April, Autism Awareness Month. Laurie Cramer, Executive Director of ASGA, said, “The Summit strives to raise awareness and understanding of autism. We’ve done this with speakers, a conference, and by bringing stakeholders, policymakers, and caregivers into the same room to talk about needed services and support for individuals with autism and their families.”
The sold out event was held at Quaker Square in downtown Akron, with over 150 people in attendance, and was a breakfast only this year. The Society’s Annual Report was released featuring key community collaborators and initiatives that help support the over 1,200 families the organization serves. Also released were the results of ASGA’s second “State of Autism” survey and accompanying policy recommendations. The Society also honored its third class of local “Autism Ambassadors.”
This year’s Autism Ambassadors were Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh, County Executive Ilene Shapiro, and Joseph and Marilyn Henn.
Prosecutor Walsh was honored for founding Take Me Home, the first of its kind database in Ohio for people who may have trouble communicating in a law enforcement situation, such as individuals with autism. She has also supported training and education about autism for first responders.
Executive Shapiro was honored for leading Summit County Council in declaring the County Autism Friendly last April (2017), the first county in Ohio to do so. She since created a Diversity and Inclusion Council to review county policies and procedures to maximize inclusion opportunities within the Executive Branch.
Joseph and Marilyn Henn were honored as founding members of ASGA, which in 1987 was an all-volunteer parent network with support groups and educational workshops. The Henn’s also are relentless advocates for their daughter, who lives with autism, and in doing so brought about national change through their tireless efforts.
Dr. Bill Lanzinger, Cleveland Clinic Akron General and Chairman of the ASGA Board of Directors, said “We recognize the Autism Ambassadors because without them, we could never achieve our mission of improving the lives of all affected by autism. It takes one person, one initiative, one level of government at a time to bring about change. We applaud these leader’s efforts and thank them for all they have done to benefit people with autism so all may enjoy the offerings of our great community.”
Sara Kline, Mayor of Stow and Chairman of ASGA’s Advocacy Committee, released the Society’s second “State of Autism” survey results and accompanying policy statement, urging the following:
Kline’s final comment was labeled the BIG IDEA, stating that ASGA urges “a federal funding program that is appropriately structured for people with autism and other developmental disabilities. Medicaid, Medicare, and SSI/DI were not created with the unique needs of people with developmental disabilities in mind. We would argue that as a basic human right, a program should be created that meets those unique needs to better serve this vulnerable population.”
Finally, Laurie Cramer urged the community to get involved with Autism Awareness Month. Ideas can be found on ASGA’s website for schools, businesses, corporations and others who want to get involved. More information can be found at www.autismakron.org.