As many of you know, I have two nephews with Autism and many children with Autism also follow a Gluten Free diet due to Celiac Disease or Gluten Sensitivity. I try to keep you all informed about what is new in the areas of Autism research, etc. I had the pleasure of interviewing Stacey Stirmer about the non-profit; Voices For Autism based here in Howard County, MD.
1) What inspired you to found your non-profit, Voices for Autism?
My husband Lloyd and I decided to establish our own non-profit foundation to raise not only money, but awareness and acceptance of people with autism as well. Although autism is the fastest growing developmental disability in our country, it’s also the most underfunded.
Our mission, at Voices for Autism, is to raise money, awareness and acceptance of individuals and families affected by autism. In addition to raising awareness, we hope to promote the value, acceptance, and inclusion of people living with autism. We want to see individuals on the spectrum achieve their highest level of independence within their home, school and community.
Voices for Autism would like to help better the future for individuals and families who are affected by autism.
2) What do you want the general public to understand about Autism?
Autism is a spectrum disorder. Like fingerprints, no two people with autism are exactly the same. There are several characteristics that are associated with autism. These include impaired development in social interaction, communication, and behavior.
What I want most for people to understand is that individuals on the autism spectrum are differently-abled than the general population, but they are still capable of learning, working and living happy, meaningful lives. They are loving, breathing human beings that deserve the same love and respect as the anyone else does. Personally, I don’t want anyone to look at my child as “broken”. He is definitely NOT broken. He’s perfect just the way that he is. One of the many things that my son has taught me is the true meaning of unconditional love.
3) Where do contributions to Voices for Autism go?
100% of money raised will be donated to Autism Speaks. Now in it’s 10th year, Autism Speaks has grown into the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families.
4) This past April I had the pleasure of having Dr Alessio Fasano (head of the Center for Celiac Research at Mass General Children’s Hospital in Boston) in for dinner again and was able to ask him some questions. Most of my readers are aware that I have two nephews with Autism, one PDD NOS and one with Asperger’s. I asked Dr Fasano about his ongoing studies with Autism Speaks. He said that 5% of children with Autism have Celiac Disease and 95% have gluten sensitivity. He also stated that they know gluten (the protein in wheat, rye and barley) is a factor along with Leaky Gut Syndrome; but they don’t know why and studies are ongoing. This gives some support to those who have had a positive experience after putting their Autistic child on a strict diet that is free of Gluten (some also remove Dairy and Soy). Is this something you have tried with your son?
We have not tried any type of diet modification with our son. He has never had any of the negative behaviors or stomach issues that have prompted many people to try going gluten free. I know that a lot of his friends follow the gluten-free diet and have had great success with it.
5) I hear you have an incredible fundraiser going on this month, would you share some details?
Yes! We are holding our first fundraiser on September 24th at Bethesda Blues and Jazz Club in Bethesda, Md. We are featuring The B Street Band, which is the original Bruce Springsteen tribute band. For those who have never seen this band, they are amazing!
There will be dinner stations as well as an open bar (beer & wine ). We will also be having a silent auction. Check out our website and see some of the great items that we will be auctioning off. Click Here Then, click on Sponsors and Donations.
6) If someone can’t attend the fundraiser, what are some other ways they can help or get involved?
If someone can’t attend but would like to help, they can donate either online via paypal or by check mailed to the address stated on the website. They could also help spread the word about our event. Tickets will be on sale through September 16th. We will not be able to sell tickets at the door due to the club’s request for a final count one week prior to the event.
This is our first year as a non-profit charitable foundation. My hope is that we will continue to grow and make a difference in the lives of individuals who are living with autism and their families.
It was great to chat with Stacey about this wonderful charity and I hope you can help in some way. The fundraiser will be awesome; I have seen this band twice and they are excellent!