It is with regret that I must announce, on behalf of our board, that our Autism Society chapter is dissolving and will not resume meeting this school year. Our efforts to find volunteers to serve as officers or board members were unsuccessful, leaving us with no option but to close the chapter.
As a board, we are working to ensure that the resources and support we provided to Anne Arundel County families will remain available to those who need them.
All the materials in our chapter lending library will remain at the Partners for Success resource center at Oakwood Elementary. Procedures for checking out materials also will be the same. Simply call 410-222-3805 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about availability. Materials can be picked up and returned at the center or can be sent to your child's school.
Much of the content of our chapter website will be absorbed by the Arc of the Central Chesapeake (www.thearcccr.org), which will be adding autism-specific content to its website. The Arc will also assist families with information and referrals via phone, which we have done through our chapter phone line.
Anyone wishing to attend another Autism Society meeting or event can seek out another chapter or find information and events on the Autism Society website (www.autism-society.org). The Howard County chapter (www.howard-autism.org) will welcome attendees from Anne Arundel County.
For family-to-family support and networking, the Baltimore-Annapolis chapter of Talk About Curing Autism (TACA) will continue to meet on the second Tuesday of the month at Severna Park Baptist Church. Membership is free, and caregivers attending for the first time receive a free Autism Journey Guide. Visithttp://www.tacanow.org/local-chapters/maryland/annapolis-baltimore/ for meeting information.
Friends of Early Childhood Intervention supports families of children receiving services from the birth-to-five programs at Anne Arundel County Public Schools. Activities include play groups and presentations. E-mail Becky Pluta at email@example.com for more information.
Caregivers who wish to impact special education services in Anne Arundel County Public Schools can do so through the Special Education Citizens' Advisory Committee (SECAC). The committee is a partnership between special education staff and stakeholders and provides feedback about the direction of special education services. Meetings are the second Thursday of the month during the school year at the Board of Education building. Visit www.aasecac.org.
Over the years, our chapter has hosted fundraisers and benefited from generous donations. As always, the board's desire is that the chapter's funds be used to benefit as many Anne Arundel County families affected by autism as possible, directly and indirectly. At the most recent meeting, the board identified three key ways to utilize funds to help the community:
- Direct assistance to families. A grant of $12,000 was made to the Arc of the Central Chesapeake for Anne Arundel County families needing help with therapy expenses, equipment, respite care, and other expenses associated with autism. The Arc was chosen to administer the funds because of prior experience with administering Rolling Access funds, and more recently, community grants on behalf of groups like the Bowen Foundation. To inquire about grant funds, please contact Jodie Sponaugle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- A donation to a community group serving individuals with autism. The board gave $5,000 to the Special Olympics of Anne Arundel County, to help them maintain their high-quality programs that benefit many people on the spectrum.
- Training for paraeducators. Over the summer, the Division of Special Education of Anne Arundel County Public Schools developed a Paraeducator Training Series for elementary permanent and temporary special education assistants. Our chapter, along with the Arc of the Central Chesapeake and the Special Education Citizens' Advisory Committee (SECAC), contributed $1,000 toward this course, a five-part series that will run from August 2011-January 2012. Course content will include disability awareness, the IEP process, behavior management, and fostering independence, as well as autism-specific content. The work of paraeducators, who often serve as one-to-one classroom aides, directly impacts children with autism in the school system, and the board strongly supports efforts to increase their training.
On behalf of past and present officers and board members, it has been a pleasure serving the Anne Arundel County community. Thank you for your support.