Autism society NWPA brochure buttonThe Autism Society Northwestern Pennsylvania is a local chapter affiliated with the Autism Society of America (ASA), the nation’s leading grassroots autism organization, which exists to improve the lives of all affected by autism. ASA does this by increasing public awareness about the day-to-day issues faced by people on the spectrum, advocating for appropriate services for individuals across the lifespan, and providing the latest information regarding treatment, education, research and advocacy. As a local chapter we make this information available to our membership and the community at large through support groups, our website, education, workshops, and seminars.

ASA was founded in 1965 by Dr. Bernard Rimland, Dr. Ruth Sullivan and many other parents of children with autism, our local chapter gained 501(c)3 status in 1974 (Guidestar) but became a firmly established organization in the mid 1980’s. Since 2001, the Walk for Autism has been our primary source of financial fundraising and support for programs that the chapter offers to families. Financial support comes in the form of local sponsors, public and corporate donors and local fundraising events organized on our behalf. In June of 2010, Autism Society NWPA received its first grant from the Erie Capacity-Building Collaborative for IT Training and Technology Upgrade.

In March of 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated 1 in 68 children have been identified with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). According to the Pennsylvania Autism Census Report, 2,108 individuals in Erie, Crawford, Venango, and Mercer Counties are identified with an autism spectrum disorder.  Currently in Pennsylvania 5,281 adults (21 +) are on the autism spectrum.  They are projecting the number of adults with autism to reach almost 36,000 in 2020.  Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability in the United States.  Efforts to promote early diagnosis and intervention supported by the Autism Society Northwestern Pennsylvania will reduce the financial and societal pressures imposed as more individuals are identified with an autism spectrum disorder.  Autism is a disability without a known cause or cure and currently affects 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls, so offering support to families and individuals in our area is vital.  As an independent information source and support provider, Autism Society NWPA is becoming a key piece of the puzzle to get individuals and families the information on services and supports that they require to get the best possible outcomes and lead productive lives within their communities.

Autism Society NWPA has been successful in creating monthly family social and sensory outings. Attendance at these outings has increased over 80% since 2009. We were also instrumental in bringing Sensory-Friendly films to Erie, Crawford, and Venango Counties. This sensory-friendly environment gives families living with an autism spectrum disorder the opportunity to attend a movie in a local theatre. Most recently, we have teamed with the Erie Seawolves to bring a Sensory-Friendly afternoon at the ballpark. Autism Society NWPA is the lead organization and project coordinator for Autism in the Community Event (A.C.E.) The goal of A.C.E. is to educate families, educators, and other members of the community, build self esteem for those on the autism spectrum disorder, and support families in need.

Autism Society NWPA has also successful developed a monthly Auto Racers for Kids Lego Social Club.  The club is designed to development appropriate social skills within the group, improve conversational skills, direction following and cooperation.  New for 2015, Autism Society NWPA is collaborating with Blended Spirits Ranch to offer Equine Assisted Psychotherapy to teens and young adults on the autism spectrum.