Community Outreach:

Where do we begin? The Community Outreach efforts of both AutismLink and the Autism Center of Pittsburgh are amazing, if we do say so ourselves.

Not only do we help parents on a day-to-day basis with information, resources, referrals, and more, we provide opportunities for inclusion for families of children with autism spectrum disorders. Because we are owned and operated by parents, we know how it is -- we live your life so we know how you feel. Sometimes it's hard to take your children out to a movie, or fishing, or to a party.

AutismLink & The Autism Center of Pittsburgh host events on a monthly basis to get you out and about with your children. Here is a list of just some of the things we have done and continue to do. If you're interested in finding out about opportunities like these below, how to get free tickets or to join our outings, just sign up for our listserv!

2007 Accomplishments:

AutismLink 2007 List of Accomplishments

* Advocated statewide for HB1150 with House Speaker Dennis M. O'Brien & Senator Jane Orie
Opened new Autism Center of Pgh North Hills Branch
* Opened new Autism Center of Pgh South Hills Branch
* Opened new Autism Center of Pittsburgh Moon Twp. Branch
* Served over 600 children with psychological evaluations, OT, and speech
* Answered over 200 calls per week from families seeking information (10,000 annually)
* Sent out informational packets to newly diagnosed families, free of charge
* Participated in 24 national and local autism conferences
* Created libraries in South Hills and North Hills branches
* Started North Hills support group
* Started South Hills support group
* Held educational seminars on special needs trusts in conjunction with Jones, Gregg, Creehan & Gerace, LLC
* Supported local researchers in finding research subjects
* Held GF/CF 101 for families new to the GF/CF diet
* Provided Project Lifesaver Bracelet to WV Teen Lost for Days
* Donated products and moon bounce to OASIS, Ohio walk for autism
* Donated over $3,000 in products for Chinese auctions and raffles
* Provided 10 weighted vests to needy families
* Helped over 300 families, nationwide, with mentor program
* Provided 24 weighted lap pads in conjunction with DreamCatcher Blankets, free of charge
* Began offering music therapy at the Autism Center
* Teamed up with Pittsburgh CLO to offer Drama Therapy
* Offered free respite in conjunction with North Allegheny Key Club
* Offered Summer Picnic at Idlewild Park for over 300 families (No thanks to mother nature!)
* Offered Pumpkin Trolley Ride to over 250 participants, free of charge
* Offered free tickets to local venues such as baseball, basketball games
* Annual Holiday party for over 200 at the Center for Creative Play
* Held Autism 101 classes for newly diagnosed families in conjunction with CCBHO
* Supported 10 support groups across the state and locally
* Helped to lead the fight for HB1150
* Provided advocacy assistance to over 100 families
* Held free screenings in conjunction with Aspire Pediatric Therapy
* Worked with Hampton High School FBLA to raise autism awareness
* Worked with North Allegheny Key Club to raise autism awareness
* Held Ultra Party in Mt. Lebanon for over 3,000 attendees to raise autism awareness

Other Accomplishments

Served over 600 children with autism spectrum disorders at the Autism Center of Pittsburgh.

Offered respite to families of children with autism and their typical siblings, free of charge.

Teamed up with the Pittsburgh CLO to offer drama therapy to children with autism.

Fully catered Autism Awareness Day Picnic at Idlewild Park for over 300 families.

Awarded project lifesaver bracelets to several families, including the teen missing in the WV woods for over 4 days.

Pumpkin Trolley Ride, completely free of charge for families. Over 200 in attendance.

  • Taco Bell/AutismLink Project Lifesaver – In the spring of 2006, Taco Bell Restaurants and AutismLink teamed up in their bracelets for bracelets program, where the restaurants sold autism awareness gel bracelets to raise money to provide several local underprivileged, low income parents of children with autism with Project Lifesaver bracelets. Project Lifesaver Bracelets are bracelets that the children wear that emit a tracking signal, in the event that they become lost or disoriented. This happens frequently with children with autism. Children with autism are often unaware of danger and often wander away and become lost. Unfortunately, many of those children never return home. AutismLink provided 15 local families who have children with autism and a history of running away with these bracelets.

  • In August 06 we teamed up with an organization called the Wheelin’ Sportsmen, which provides the disabled with opportunities to get out and experience nature. Not only the physically disabled, but the mentally disabled as well. Together, we were able to provide over 80 families with the opportunity to take their children with autism to a private lake near West Virginia. Some of the children caught their first fish. The smiles on their faces were priceless. We cooked over 160 hamburgers, 80 hot dogs and had 20 lbs. of potato salad!! Everyone had a really great time and the kids were able to get out and experience fishing, thanks to AutismLink. Everything was completely free of charge

  • AutismLink was able to send over 450 family members of children with autism to events such as Pirates Baseball, Penguins Hockey, Pitt Basketball, Stars on Ice, local plays, ballets, and other cultural events. All are completely free of charge

  • Every October, AutismLink hosts a Halloween Haunted Trolley Ride. We rent the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum after hours, and let the children and their families ride the rail cars to a pumpkin patch, where the children can pick a pumpkin from the patch, and decorate it. This is by far our most popular event where we host over 130 each year. The entire event is free for all family members.

  • AutismLink has donated over $2,500 in books and audio visual materials to local libraries that participate in the Pennsylvania State Interlibrary Lending program. Any book in one of these libraries can be borrow by any family in the network, statewide. We purchased books, videos and DVD’s for the library program.

  • AutismLink secured 150 amusement park tickets to one of the most desired parks in Western Pennsylvania – Kennywood Park. While other organizations sell the tickets to make money for their organizations, AutismLink chose to give them to families of children with autism completely free of charge.

  • AutismLink holds an annual Holiday Party at the Center for Creative Play for families of children with autism, completely free of charge. AutismLink provides dinner and desert and presents for the children, along with a visit from Santa, and gifts for all of the children. We even provide gluten free/casein free dietary options for those children on restrictive diets.

  • In January of 2005, AutismLink held a workshop in conjunction with a local School District for parents entitled, Grief Loss and Chronic Stress, Dealing with Autism in the Family, which was completely free and attended by over 200 parents. The conference, which featured Dr. Melissa Smiley-Jacobson, MsEd, LSW, was an incredible resource for parents dealing with grief and feelings associated with raising children with autism. Entrance fees and food were completely free of charge.

  • In March of 2005, AutismLink held a workshop in conjunction with a local School District for teachers and paraprofessionals entitled, “Autism in the Classroom, Practical Strategies for Success.” This conference, again, was completely free to teachers and paraprofessionals teaching children with autism in their classrooms. Attended by over 350 professionals, the conference was a great success. Snacks and drinks were provided, as well as entrance fees, completely fee of charge.

  • Advertised over 900 events FREE OF CHARGE for autism organizations across the country!

  • AutismLink holds a monthly special education support group for parents where their children can attend. Held in the local center for creative play, AutismLink pays a local agency to provide therapeutic staff support for the children to play in the center while parents attend the support group.

  • AutismLink is responsible for and supports over 10 support groups across the State of Pennsylvania – Lebanon County, Lancaster County, Penn State, Butler County, Hermitage, PA, North Hills of Pittsburgh, South Hills of Pittsburgh, Eastern Pittsburgh, Lower Burrell, PA, Beaver, PA and a group in Dayton, Ohio.

  • AutismLink, in conjunction with Duquesne University in August, 2006 held a conference with nationally renowned speaker Dr. Temple Grandin, Sean Barron and Ms. Rebecca Moyes. The conference which was two days and was extremely low cost ($35 per person), brought in 550 attendees.

  • In fall 2006, AutismLink, in conjunction with Duquesne University began a pilot project for teens and adolescents with autism. The project, which is a social skills mentoring program, will pair teens and adolescents with autism with graduate students in special education who will act as mentors toward the students with autism. The graduate students will be overseen by several PhD level instructors who have designed curriculum for the social skills pilot project. This project will expand in 2007 to include more sessions and more students.

  • Led the fight in Pennsylvania against copayments and premiums

  • Participated in PCN Television Autism Awareness Call-In Show

  • Participated in Pittsburgh Cable Television Autism Awareness Call-In Show

  • Answered over 6,500 email inquiries within 24 hours with parent questions on topics ranging from advocacy to wraparound!

  • Answered over 1,000 phone inquires per month.
  • Began online art gallery for children with autism to showcase their own artwork!
  • Played key role in helping Senator Jane Clare Orie write legislation to stop premiums on Medicaid.
  • Began special education support group with FREE therapeutic staff support for local families.
  • Accepted “transfer” support groups (from Aboard) in Lancaster, PA
  • Accepted “transfer” support group (from Aboard) in Kittanning, PA
  • Began new support group in State College, PA
  • Began new support group in Hermitage, PA
  • Began program to give away two weighted lap pads per month, free of charge.
  • Started affiliate program with over 40 support groups nationwide
  • Participated in Penn State Autism Conference
  • Provided advocacy for individuals with autism in legal trouble
  • Held free conferences/seminars for over 1,000 local teachers, paraprofessionals and parents in conjunction with local school districts.
  • Held conference with Temple Grandin, Sean Barron & Rebecca Moyes in conjunction with Duquesne University for a nominal fee.
  • Began social skills mentoring groups, in conjunction with Duquesne University, for teens and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders.
  • Held several free outings for children with autism at Loew’s Waterfront Theatre.
  • Held golf outing fundraiser to purchase $2,000 in books and educational materials for statewide interlibrary lending program.
  • Paid for respite care for local families in crisis!
  • Created podcasts with such notable figures as Temple Grandin, Autism Speaks, Dr. Stephen Gutstein, and more.