May Executive Director’s Message

Surfing in High Waves…..

As we move on from “Autism Awareness Month” in April (or as we prefer to refer to it, “Autism Acceptance Month”), our challenge is to continue to make sure that everyone is aware of the needs of different subsets of our populations, and of the the services that are available to serve those needs. Also, what should be available but isn’t.

To aid in public awareness, we have been assisted by a rising tide of films, documentaries, books and television shows that feature individuals of differing abilities, either as lead characters or incidental participants with something special to say. While some may be controversial, in sum, the increased awareness is always a good thing. The community’s challenge is to transform awareness into action, and support.

At FACT, we stand ready to embrace all the opportunities and challenges that are facing the families and individuals affected by ASD and other developmental disabilities. The expected (and long overdue) movements toward Self-Determination and compliance with the federal Inclusion Rule are beginning to take shape. But even in the midst of that uncertain pace, is a growing uncertainty of the impact of new funding and regulatory regimes, given the new administration.  As we advocate for change, we adapt to the realities as we see them.

I sometimes liken it to surfing in high waves.  The waves are there and there is nothing you can do but ride with them, and use as much skill as you have to progress, and to reach solid land. Or to put it much more poetically, I’ll quote my friend Leif Smith of “We must free ourselves of the hope that the sea will ever rest. We must learn to sail in high winds.”

This is the most inspiring of the many features about FACT that has impressed me in my time here: the resilience of our staff, our programming and our clients/families. Every day, staff members and interns are finding ways to improve someone’s life a little bit, and finding new ways to create systems so that we can continue to seek improvement and to find success.

FACT is expanding in all areas, with particular emphasis on competitive integrated employment.  We are also increasing our programming in the San Fernando Valley, where there is a great deal of need and our waiting lists are growing. This past month we were at the verge of achieving our largest census of clients of FACT in our entire 18 year history.  But just as at the beginning, our ability to serve is dependent on the support of our families and donors.

WE KNOW WE MUST DO MORE, and so we turn to our broad family of support to help us make that happen.  As you may know, many of our programs have reimbursement rates that do not nearly cover the costs of the programs, and some services are not compensated at all.  And, no funded service covers all the infrastructure necessary to continue to offer services according to need.

You know that as a nonprofit we do what is needed without regard to individual or third-party compensation.  Now more than ever, with all the changes in funding streams and service designs, coupled with the increasing diagnoses of autism spectrum disorders and other mental and developmental disabilities among people of all ages (particularly people of color), we must be able to step up to the changing needs.  Our ability to grow and serve is dependent on our ability to create connections between generous donors and deserving clients.  With friends like you, we are confident we can do it. We ask again to please dig deep, and also to connect us with supportive businesses and organizations you may know. Our speakers bureau is ready to send folks to groups that want to be educated about developmental disabilities and what they can do.

Arm in arm, we’ll brave the waves.  With thanks and best wishes for a wonderful Spring,