Autism Alliance of Michigan is the trusted resource for the autism community

Whether a toddler has just received an autism diagnosis or a teenager with autism needs support preparing for her first job, the Autism Alliance of Michigan (AAoM) is here to help ensure individuals with autism reach their greatest potential. AAoM was founded in 2009 upon the conviction that people living with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can and should succeed in their lives and their families and friends
can support them in their journey.

Colleen Allen, AAoM president and CEO

“AAoM leads efforts to raise expectations and expand opportunities for people touched by autism,” says Colleen Allen, Ph.D., president and CEO of AAoM. “We are a trusted resource for individuals with autism and their families.”

AAoM deeply believes that independence, health, safety, and well-being are foundational to a full life and strives to provide every family with access to services that meet their needs across the lifespan. Additionally, AAoM is committed to statewide advocacy to address system reform so every child has an opportunity for a quality, inclusive education, and readiness for employment, college, or vocational programs they desire.

“This organization and its leadership envision a world where no family member is limited because they have autism,” Allen says.

AAoM’s three key pillars of statewide initiatives include: Reducing age of diagnosis and access to the earliest interventions; quality, inclusive education; and successful employment and job opportunities. AAoM has served more than 40,000 Michiganders through these mission pillars, helping individuals and families living with autism to navigate and understand the complex questions they
face daily.

April is Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month
April marks National Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month. AAoM has numerous events, programs, and educational opportunities to raise awareness about autism and those living with it. On April 22 in Detroit, AAoM will host the largest and one of the most high-impact education and fundraising celebrations in support of the autism community — the 12th annual “Michigan Shines for Autism Gala.”

“This year’s theme is ‘Fighting for Civil Rights for Better Lives,’” Allen says. “The Autism Alliance of Michigan’s work is steeped in the belief that individuals living with autism spectrum disorder — and all persons with disabilities — deserve access to basic, civil rights that ultimately affect their medical care and educational and employment opportunities.”
While disability laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Individuals with Disability Education Act (IDEA) have been on the books for a generation, there remains a stigma and gap in caring for and understanding of the experiences of the approximately one in 36 people who are living on the autism spectrum. People living with autism are often denied fundamental rights that most take for granted. As with so many disparities, this was painfully evident during the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19’s impact on the autism community
Knowing that people with disabilities, including those living with autism, were disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic through reduced access to health care — including vaccines, AAoM applied for and was awarded a grant from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) to drive “Autism and Developmental Disability Community Awareness on Vaccine Safety, Efficacy, Access.” Routine vaccinations, including those that prevent common childhood diseases and COVID infection, were frequently neglected during the pandemic.
“Our organization launched a statewide campaign to better equip people living with autism, their families, caregivers, and medical providers with tools, materials and techniques to ease the stress that often surrounds a visit to the doctor,” Allen says.

“These efforts are consistent with our commitment to the health, safety, and well- being of all autistic persons, many who also present with co-existing medical conditions that increase risk for more serious complications from COVID and other communicable diseases.”
Three years on from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, a gap remains in understanding and acceptance of the science behind preventive measures such as vaccines. As the statewide organization for autism advocacy, information, referrals, and community safety initiatives, AAoM uses the most up-to-date, scientific information and research to inform and direct vaccine education.

AAoM is here to help
Thousands of Michigan families view AAoM as a trusted partner and source of information to help elevate their concerns and voices in the fight for disability rights. AAoM has built a world-class team of experienced advocates and professionals to support people living with autism, identify pathways, and bring light to the challenges they face. AAOM works to develop solutions that help people in Michigan access basic care, navigate their civil and legal rights, and explore the appropriate education and employment opportunities.

“Accessing information and resources while navigating an often-fractured system of support in the autism community can be difficult,” Allen concludes.