By Daniel E. Beckham
Hews Media Group-Community Newspaper MG-CN had an exclusive interview with Matt Asner, the Executive Director of Southern California Autism Speaks this past Tuesday when he was in Hawaiian Gardens to accept a $10,000 donation on behalf of the Irving J. Moskowitz Foundation to help expand future research projects for the well-respected organization.
The non-profit organization, Autism Speaks, strives to change the future for all who struggle with autism spectrum disorders. They are dedicated to funding global biomedical research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a possible cure for autism.
“We are currently looking into doing more with adults. These kids are growing up and their cut off age for the regional center is 22. Once they hit 22 there’s a steep cliff so we have to start worrying about housing and employment,” commented Asner.
Autism Speaks is working on bringing the autism community together as one strong voice to urge the government and private sector to listen to our concerns and take action to address this urgent global health crisis.
Matt Asner, “I’ve been working with Daryl Steinberg up in Sacramento trying to develop legislation for an incentive program for people with Autism.”
“It is our firm belief that, working together, we will find the missing pieces of the puzzle.”
On April 26th, 2014, Walk Now for Autism Speaks celebrated their 10 year anniversary for the Pasadena Rose Bowl Parade. They are continually striving to raise $2 million dollars this year and have raised $1.75 million dollars thus far.
Through the generosity of the communities, Autism Speaks was able to fund 22 Family Services Grants through a partnership with Sprouts. Some included UCSB, Talking about Curing Autism, and The Center for Learning Unlimited and Reid’s Gift, Inc.
“We’re hoping, every year, we learn more every year, environmental studies. Keep looking at the causes of it. That’s the most important thing,” said Matt Asner.
“My gut is telling that there’s something in the environment that is triggering this. Something environmental and genetic. We’re talking about 1 in 68. 5 years ago it was 1 in 200. 10 years ago it was 1 in 10,000. So something is happening.”
“I think it’s a bunch of things. It could be the water, plastic or Vaseline. There’s a lot of things that it could be. We need to find out what that is so we can treat it better.”
“I think that within the next 10 years we will know the root cause of Autism.”
Autism Speaks funded thirteen local camps through Baker Summer Camp Scholarship Program to help children in need. Some of these camps included Pediatric Therapy Network, AbilityFirst Camp Paivika, The Wiley Center for Speech and Language Development, Vista Del Mar and Quest Therapeutic Camps.
Asner commented, “I mean I do this because of my family alone which is my brother, my son, my nephew and my girlfriend’s children. I feel I have to change the world for my kid. If you had 1 in 68 people going blind at birth what do you think would happen. Autism for the most part is invisible.”
Autism Speaks strives to raise public awareness about autism and its effects on individuals, families, and society and we work to bring hope to all who deal with hardships of this disorder.
“I’ve been trying to help a group called 211 LA County. One of the things we are trying to do is lower the diagnosis age,” said Asner.
“The average age of diagnosis in this country is 5 years old which is ridiculous. It should be 18 months and there’s no reason it should be more than that.”
“In underserved communities it’s even worse. It’s 8 or 9 years old and you’re losing an incredible valuable amount of time. Most of the brain develops in the first 5 or 6 years and you need that time.”
“So one of the things that Autism Speaks is trying to raise awareness with doctors and with people who are not watching their children like they should be. Cultural or racial we’re trying to get the word out and trying to get into those communities to educate people. In order to do that we need to partner with people who are well immersed in those communities. People who can get the word out.”
“211 LA is an organization that helps guide people who are in situations. One of things that they do is mental screening on the phone. We have partnered with them on a couple of events where people came in and were screened for Autism and were actually sent out with a plan. A lot of times when a person is screened for Autism, they don’t provide all the follow-ups. 211 LA is all through the Dept. of Mental Health.”