The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation (DJFF), the nation’s first not-for-profit organization to focus exclusively on adults living with autism, has launched two groundbreaking initiatives designed to enrich the lives of autistic individuals throughout their lifespan.
With endowment gifts of $100,000 each to two of the nation’s leading universities, DJFF is helping to ensure that a laser focus will be placed on providing the best lives possible for adults affected by autism for generations to come.
First, DJFF partnered with Yale University Medical School’s Center for Translational Developmental Neuroscience http://childstudycenter.yale.edu/research/index.aspx to establish the nation’s first-ever research fund specifically dedicated to study adults and how aging impacts autism.
The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation Adult Autism Research Fund will be led by Roger J. Jou, MD, PhD, who is a leading autism researcher, and one of the few physician-scientists in the nation who has dedicated his career to the research and care of adults living with autism.
“Autism is a life-long condition, most of which is spent in adulthood,” says Dr. Jou. “Our partnership with The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation represents an expansion of our commitment to include adults of all ages living with autism.”
Linda J. Walder, Founder and Executive Director of The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation reports that this groundbreaking research fund will endure in perpetuity and ensure that vital research continues to focus on how autism affects individuals throughout their lifespan.
Says Linda Walder, “Currently there is virtually no research being done relating to adults and autism, so this collaboration with Yale will lead the nation and, hopefully, provide much needed insights that will medically benefit individuals and that will enhance their daily lives.”
Dr. Jou reports that key areas of research will include late adulthood given the risk of comorbidities. Depression and dementia will be two key areas of focus, given their increased risk in other developmental disabilities.
DJFF’s second gift of $100,000 established a new endowment fund at the University of Miami’s Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD) that will spearhead the further development of their world-renowned programs and enable the establishment of much-needed new programs and services for adults. With the establishment of this fund, CARD’s adult and transition services will be aligned under the name The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation Transition and Adult Programs.
Says Walder, “We are thrilled to collaborate with CARD’s executive director Dr. Michael Alessandri, a visionary in the field of autism for over 25 years who has created innovative transition, employment, and recreational programs that benefit thousands of people in Florida and internationally. Together, we look forward to addressing additional needs including housing.”
CARD and The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation share a joint vision of creating and expanding replicable models and opportunities for adults living with autism to have the best lives possible for generations to come.
Dr. Alessandri explains that the DJFF endowment is especially crucial since CARD’s Department of Education funding does not provide for serving adults who have left high school. The executive director reports that the DJFF funding will allow CARD to explore more innovative approaches to issues such as:
- Employment, including education, training, and mentorship for families who wish to explore microenterprise as an employment path for adults living with autism.
- Community-based leisure programming, including peer-to-peer social opportunities, art programs, etc.
- Developing long-term solutions to the challenges of full community inclusion for adults living with autism.
- Creating workshops for families geared to legal, financial, and self-advocacy initiatives.
Says Dr. Alessandri, “We are grateful to The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation for its generous gift to CARD. It will help support our existing programs and help stimulate exploration, discussion, and action on a range of solutions for housing, employment, health care, and legal issues.”
The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation was established in 2002 in honor and memory of Linda Walder’s own autistic son Danny Fiddle, who passed away at age nine. Since its inception, DJFF has helped develop, advocate for, and fund innovative programs and resources for adults living with autism, including residential programs, employment training for students in transition, health/wellness initiatives, music and art programs, hiking and equestrian activities, as well as social/relationship opportunities. The Foundation has pioneered much-needed resource materials that address critical needs and are offered free of charge to the public, including booklets on topics such as Autism and Epilepsy, Autism and Faith, a handbook for college students on the spectrum, and a pocket-size travel guide.
Linda J. Walder is a leading national advocate and has been instrumental in developing public policy that addresses the needs of all people living with autism and their families.
There are over three million individuals living with autism today. It is estimated that over the next decade, 500,000 individuals will reach the age of 21 and “age out” of government-mandated programs.
For more information about The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation, visit: www.djfiddlefoundation.org. For information about Yale’s Center for Translational Developmental Neuroscience, visit: http://childstudycenter.yale.edu/research/index.aspx.
To learn more about CARD and The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation Transition and Adult Programs visit: www.umcard.org/adults-asd/.