Doctors are still struggling to identify the causes of autism. But we already understand its impact.
In our 2005 report on autism in the Jewish community, we noted that approximately 8,000 Jews in the New York area are on the autistic spectrum. The overwhelming responsibilities of caring for loved ones with autistic spectrum disorders increase the entire population affected by autism to at least three times that number.
Support and Services for Families
Since limited resources exist for families affected by autism, UJA-Federation has made targeted grants to create new initiatives and expand on existing services within the Jewish community. We've funded the development of 10 new initiatives in Manhattan, Westchester, and Long Island that provide a comprehensive range of support for these families. Programs we're supporting include such community initiatives as:
- Sunday as Funday programs that provide social-skills groups, recreational activities, and Jewish enrichment for children with autism, as well as family programming and parent and sibling support groups. Sunday as Funday programs take place at the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan, the Jewish Community Center of Mid-Westchester, and the Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center.
- The Autism Family Support Center at Westchester Jewish Community Services.
Events and Activities
UJA-Federation also supports social-skills groups, after-school programming, Jewish enrichment, case management, in-home respite services, and staff trainings, including:
- Saturday-night events for teens with autism, as well as mentoring and after-school social groups for children on the autistic spectrum, coordinated by the Jewish Community Center of the Greater Five Towns.
- Sunday-morning Jewish enrichment classes for children on the autistic spectrum, run by MATAN. These classes take place at the Riverdale YM-WYHA and the JCC in Manhattan.
- A comprehensive support, socialization, and case-management program, coordinated by the Samuel Field Y for families living in the Clearview Cooperative, a naturally occurring retirement community (NORC).
- In-home respite services and trainings for respite workers, coordinated by the JCC of Mid-Westchester.
- Life-skills training and socialization opportunities for people in their 20s and 30s at the JCC in Manhattan, provided in collaboration with FEGS Health and Human Services System.
- Staff training and agency consultation related to socialization and sibling support from The Mount Sinai Medical Center's Seaver and New York Autism Center of Excellence.
- An annual UJA-Federation Hilibrand Autism Symposium, where parents, professionals, advocates, and other interested community members can learn about the latest research and innovative program models that address the most compelling needs facing individuals with autism as they age into adulthood. Watch a recording of the most recent symposium.
We're committed to providing continued and expanded support for programs assisting families affected by autism. Among the initiatives that UJA-Federation is helping to develop are:
- Programs that provide resources for families with older children on the autistic spectrum, who are transitioning to independent living and in need of vocational opportunities.
- Synagogue-based programming that promotes the inclusion of those with special needs.
- Comprehensive support programs for families affected by autism, to be offered at UJA-Federation beneficiary agencies in Brooklyn.