Fresno State’s Central California Autism Center and the Speech and Hearing Clinic each received a check for $25,000 on Nov. 7 from a local organization.
Families for Effective Autism Treatment – Fresno/Madera County (FEAT-FMC) is a nonprofit that consists of parents and professionals dedicated to helping families with children who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Autism affects one out of 88 children, according to the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
ASD includes autism, pervasive developmental disorder or Asperger’s syndrome. FEAT-FMC provides a network of support and assistance for families to meet each other and to discuss the issues that surround autism and the various treatment options, such as applied behavioral analysis, speech and occupational therapies.
The goal of such programs is to ensure that children diagnosed with autism are given the opportunity to maximize their potential, said FEAT-FMC vice president Chuck Genseal.
Alongside Genseal in presenting the donation checks was the organization’s president, Paul Lambert. Both feel personally connected to the cause because they have family members who have been diagnosed with autism.
The personal connection for Genseal and Lambert is what inspired them to rep-resent their organization and give back, said Dr. Jody Hironaka-Juteau.
As the interim dean of the College of Health and Human Services, Hironaka-Juteau said she was excited to learn about the donation to the hearing clinic and called it a “very generous and wonderful gift.”
The clinic serves close to 100 clients, ranging from ages 3 to 83. The clinic and the autism center have a few common clients, but no formal connection otherwise exists between the two.
“We’re going to use the funding for iPads, new audio and visual equipment in the clinic,” Hironaka-Juteau said.
This marked the largest donation the autism center has received to date, accord-ing to its founding director, Dr. Amanda Adams. The nonprofit alone has given approximately $115,000 in donations to university programs.
“We have funding from the state, but donations like this allow us to take it a step further,” Adams said. She said the nonprofit has donated every year since 2007, when the program started.
In its eight years, Adams said the autism center has seen a steady increase in clients and the number of students employed as behavioral therapists. When the program first kicked off, there were four clients and 12 student employees.
Today, there are more than 40 clients from ages 18 months to 12 years and more than 90 behavioral therapists, made up of undergraduate students majoring in psychology, applied behavior analysis and child development. Clinical supervisors are also involved, but at the graduate level.
The donation, Adams said, will allow the center to take the next step with its enrichment program, which is dedicated to providing clients with the opportunity and training to develop social skills through music, art and sports.
Adams said she hopes to see the program continue to steadily grow and promote community awareness of autism and its treatment.
“I’d like to see it open up to the community to include them more and maybe a summer program,” she said.