April is Autism Awareness Month, and while the first place people and corporations think to donate is to Autism Speaks, I would like to take this opportunity to urge you to consider donating and raising funds locally this year instead.
Many do not realize Autism Speaks only uses the funds they raise for national research and awareness. While that is certainly needed and very admirable, it does not provide any therapy, services or support in our communities, which any parent of a child with autism will tell you is actually what they need.
The millions of dollars raised from the "Walk for Autism Speaks" also do not stay in the cities and communities in which they were raised, whereas every donation to a local organization goes to directly helping families in our community.
As a parent of an autistic child, our family received help, advocacy and hope through organizations like the Autism Center of Pittsburgh, the PEAL Center, and ABOARD. These organizations provide diagnosis, evaluations, resources for therapies and social groups, and assistance with navigating things like insurance and educational programs.
As someone who now works in this community as director of fund-raising for the Autism Center of Pittsburgh, I know the above organizations function 100 percent on donations, and some of them in this economy are struggling to keep their doors open.
So when you decide to write a check next month, please consider making autism "speak" locally, and send that money to an organization that helps families in your area.