The Autism Alliance Story
It all started in a local church basement, back in 1993, when a group of six families, all with children diagnosed on the autism spectrum, gathered to try, and wrap their heads around this shattering diagnosis. The families supported one another, sharing vital resources including doctors, teachers, and therapies. At that time, rates of autism were 1 in every 10,000 births and the internet was not part of our everyday lives. Resources surrounding autism were not easily accessible.
The group found immense value in the support and guidance they provided one another. Furthermore, they did not want other families repeating the experiences they had already endured. Fueled by this desire to make a difficult path easier for others, they transformed from a small, informal support network into a non-profit organization. The group quickly grew from six members to sixty and became known as The Family Voice. With a shoestring budget granted by the Department of Developmental Services, the volunteer-run organization set up a small office space. They designed programs such as SibShop, support groups, Sunday gym programs, music programs, newcomers’ packets, and a lending library. In 1998, The Family Voice became The Autism Alliance of MetroWest. We partnered with Natick’s Morse Institute Library, which provided a permanent home for the resource center. By 2003, we attained official non-profit and grew our roster to approximately three hundred area families.
But as The Autism Alliance grew older, so did the children that we served. Much like the early days, the same core group of families searched for a solution that would allow the agency to continue to serve individuals with autism who were now entering adulthood. After much consideration, in 2009, The Autism Alliance became a Program of Advocates.
Today, The Autism Alliance remains the only autism specific children's family support center of its kind in the MetroWest area supporting families living with autism. We provide autism training to members of the larger community on how to compassionately respond to individuals with autism. This is called the Autism Welcoming Initiative - Sensitivity Responsiveness for Community Businesses. We partner with businesses and individuals to create a welcoming and accessible community for families and their loved ones with autism. Our goal is to help create an increased quality and socially inclusive life for families and to help (businesses) become sensitivity responsive. We believe that having neighborhood businesses that care fosters a new culture and stronger environment for all. We have certified over 30 businesses Autism Welcoming Initiative | Autism Alliance
There have been considerable changes in the past three decades. The internet is now easily accessible. The internet and social media are now common ways to find resources and information. Six families raising children with autism has multiplied to 2700 families on our mailing list. 1:36 children born today will be diagnosed with autism. But despite all these changes, the grass roots mission of The Autism Alliance has remained the same:
To provide families with information, education, and support; plan programs and events that will aid those families, while increasing public awareness, acceptance, and action regarding autism.
The core programs designed 30 years ago still exist. The six, original families that began the agency are still involved, including a resolute Governing Council. While larger, we remain a network of families dedicated to a common goal, providing people with autism opportunities for a full and meaningful life.