As the number of children diagnosed on the spectrum has grown, so have resources for those affected by autism, such as sensory-friendly movies, plays, sports venues, and mall visits with Santa Claus.
Last June, the Autism Alliance of MetroWest received a $20,000 grant from the MetroWest Health Foundation of Framingham to support individuals with autism up to age 25 and their families in another area: medical visits.
Allison Daigle, codirector of the Autism Alliance of MetroWest, has been with the organization since its inception as a program of Framingham-based Advocates in 2009. She had this to say:
Q. How did this project come about?
A. We know that families affected by autism spend a lot of time going to medical appointments, and that caregivers are often under a lot of stress to keep children calm. It’s a loss for these families when they can’t benefit from the same services as others in general, and it’s even more crucial when you think that a diagnosis could be missed because of it.
Q. How is the grant being used?
A. We’ve created an Autism Wellness Packet in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, which comes with a lollipop, sticker, crayons, tools for children to communicate their symptoms and feelings, and a story to help them anticipate step-by-step what’s going to happen. We also gave the pediatrician offices a calming kit, with noise-canceling headphones, a weighted stuffed turtle to sit on a child’s lap and help with relaxation, and a pager so families can step outside until the doctor is ready to see them. There’s a lot more; these are just some examples.
Q. Where is the packet available?
A. So far, it’s been overwhelmingly and graciously accepted by the two pediatrician offices we’ve presented it to: the Framingham site of the Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center and Main Street Pediatrics in Hopkinton. We’ll be working with one other office in March, the MetroWest Medical Center’s Department of Pediatrics in Framingham. We’ve designed all the materials so they can be replicated for other pediatrician offices for a small fee.
Q. Why are these materials important?
A. Making these accommodations available is just another way to say we care about you and your goals, and we’re here for whatever you need to feel connected and supported. When we come together to build positive experiences and successes, we all win.