Thursday, December 23, 2010

'Tis the Season

Every December, there is something that is on a lot of people's minds. Of course, there's wintery weather, for those in cooler climes. Preparing for time with family ranks pretty high. For those of a religious persuasion, and even some who aren't, there are all the decorations to take care of, trees to set up and malls to visit. Lots of stuff going on.

But I'm not talking about any of those things. No, there is something else that figures prominently in many people's thoughts:

Charitable giving.

There are a lot of reasons to give to charity. Some do it out of altruism - giving to help others. Some do it from a sense of obligation - giving as a duty or favor to someone (e.g., instead of sending me a gift this year, donate to a charity). Still others make financial donations in order to garner tax benefits, since the tax year in the U.S. ends on December 31. Of course, there are probably other reasons, and people who have varying combinations of reasons.

I have some experience working in the non-profit sector and dealing with these sorts of donations. December is almost always the busiest time of year, with everyone scrambling to get their gifts in to the charities before the holidays pass and the calendar turns over to January. As much work as it is dealing with the influx of philanthropy, it's far better for non-profits to be overworked dealing with it all than to be twiddling their thumbs.

Given the focus of this blog, I thought I'd take a moment to promote some ideas for year-end giving that help support autism and autism research.

Autism Science Foundation

First off, one that has made the rounds of a lot of other blogs I read, the Autism Science Foundation (ASF) has their year-end campaign, Recipe4Hope:

According to their web site:

The Autism Science Foundation's mission is to support autism research by providing funding and other assistance to scientists and organizations conducting, facilitating, publicizing and disseminating autism research. The organization also provides information about autism to the general public and serves to increase awareness of autism spectrum disorders and the needs of individuals and families affected by autism.

If you are interested in supporting research into the causes of autism and how to improve education and awareness, the ASF is probably a pretty worthy charity. Here's a link to the ASF donation page, for your convenience.

Next up are two Boston-area organizations: The New England Center for Children (NECC) and the Lurie Family Autism Center.

New England Center for Children

A friend of mine used to work at NECC a number of years ago, and I had the opportunity to visit several times to see the work that they do. One of the driving goals of NECC is to teach their students the skills they will need to succeed in the world, to the best of their abilities. To achieve this, the teachers utilize Applied Behavior Analysis to teach self-care skills, safe/dangerous situation identification, social skills and some academic skills. They also teach parents and work to reduce the medications that the kids take as much as is safely feasible. Students can be in either a day program or residential program, and respite services are available for caretakers. NECC also employs their older students to help them gain job experience and prepare them for employment once they leave. Overall, I was really impressed by what I saw. Visit the NECC giving page for more information on how to donate.

Lurie Family Autism Center

Finally, there's the Lurie Family Autism Center, which is at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). The Lurie Family Autism Center combines both clinical services and research. I spoke with a member of the MGH Development Office, Anne MacLean, about the program. According to Anne, not only do they provide early diagnosis and treatment services, but the center also provides support for families, education services and support for adults with autism. Something that Anne mentioned to me that impressed me is that they give quite a bit of thought to figuring out how to provide medical services to a population that traditionally suffers from a range of communication impairments. How do you test hearing in someone that doesn't communicate? How do you perform an MRI for someone who has difficulty staying still and dislikes loud noises?

The physician-researchers at the center are also engaged in research into the causes and etiology of autism. For example, Dr. Martha Herbert heads up the TRANSCEND program, investigating the the relationships between brain abnormalities and the bodies of those with autism. There are research projects looking at twins, genetics, family history and so on.

In addition to providing clinical services and support and conducting autism research, the Lurie Family Autism Center also provides training opportunities for young clinicians and researchers. If you're interested in learning more, pay a visit to the Lurie Family Autism Center/LADDERS support page. Anne MacLean's contact info is there, as well, and I highly recommend contacting her for more info on the different areas to support.

To wrap up, there are a lot of opportunities out there to support worthy charities. Hopefully, I've given a decent insight into three that support the autism community. I'll be making a donation, myself, and I strongly urge my readers to consider making a gift of their own. Here are some more links for your convenience:

Autism Science Foundation Online Giving Page
New England Center for Children Online Giving Page
Lurie Family Autism Center/LADDERS Online Giving Page

Happy holidays, everyone!


  1. Just made my gift. Please spread the word about these charities!

  2. Happy holidays, Todd! tweeting and facebooking your post. :-)

  3. Thanks, Kim! Happy holidays to you, too!

  4. Excellent choices. Consider the Association for Science in Autism Treatment (ASAT) as well ( Even if you decide not to donate, pease think about signing up for ASAT's free quarterly newsletter:

  5. Duly tweeted!/Cannabis4Autism/status/113778629741264897


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