The Daniel Jordan Fiddle (DJF) Foundation has entered its second decade of developing, advocating for and funding unique and groundbreaking initiatives that benefit the lives of adults living with autism spectrum. Exciting new collaborations with the nation’s leading advocacy organizations and DJF’s longstanding commitment to developing programs based upon the needs expressed by individuals who live with the challenges of autism have led to the development of original programs and public service materials geared towards educating and supporting adults on the spectrum.
A Manual for Self-Advocacy and Leadership on Campus
Last year, Linda Walder Fiddle, Founder and Executive Director of DJF Foundation met with Ari Ne’eman, President of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) and one of the nation’s leading self-advocates to discuss Ari’s interest in developing a manual that every college student on the spectrum could get when they enroll that would offer advice, insights and strategies to advocate for themselves on campus and beyond. In addition, the manual aspires to help foster advocacy leadership and affiliation on campus and beyond. Linda loved the idea, recognizing that 35% of people on the spectrum are now attending college or college classes as adults. Further, The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation had previously funded programs on several campuses to help students including a program at Kean University and one at Camden County College.
The first draft of this exciting manual known as the ASAN/DJF Empowering Autistic Leaders Manual was produced in 2012. Still a work in progress, that includes first-hand writings from individuals on the spectrum about such topics as planning self-advocacy events, sustaining advocacy groups on campus and how to deal with disability discrimination on campus, the manual will be edited on 2013 and piloted on several college campuses. Ari stated at the inception of the project that it will take three years in total to develop, pilot and disseminate. “As more and more Autistic young people enter college, a new generation of Autistic leaders is emerging. ASAN and The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation believe this resource will be a critical tool towards empowering that new leadership and swinging open the doors of higher education for all.”
A Pocket Guide for Everyday Travel
Another key area identified by people living with the diverse challenges of autism that was previously unaddressed, yet is vital to every aspect of community participation, is transportation. The social-entrepreneur spirit of DJF Foundation inspired by an adult who travels to and from destinations independently but gets confused and flustered if things do not go according to plan, led Linda to seek out the expertise of Dr. Mary Leary, Senior Director of Easter Seals Office of Public Affairs and leader of Easter Seals Project ACTION, the national center on Senior transportation and other transportation and mobility initiatives. Mary and Linda discussed the idea of creating a pocket-sized guide that individuals could carry in their wallet or purse that provides trouble-shooting tips when the unexpected happens when traveling using public transportation.
The purpose of the GET Going (Guiding Everyday Travel) Pocket Guide is to provide an easy-to-use, portable tool for travelers who may become flustered or forget the travel training they received when something out of the ordinary occurs. It covers such topics as: What if you lose your fare? What if you miss your stop? What if you get lost?
Dr. Leary states, “Easter Seals is pleased to have added our knowledge of the needs of people with autism and our expertise on accessible transportation to that of The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation to produce this new pocket guide, which will provide support to people with autism as they independently use public transportation to get to the places they want to go.”
According to transportation expert and project collaborator Cecilia Feeley, “The ability to travel independently allows one to take control of their lives and their choices. Those who can’t or don’t drive can take public transit to meet their daily needs and maintain a high quality of life. However, using the local bus or train can be overwhelming, especially when something goes wrong. The GET Going Pocket Guide allows individuals to get quick answers to common problems that happen when riding the bus or train.”
The GET Going Pocket Guide will be available nationally in January 2013. Developed collaboratively, the process involved public transit service providers and operators, travel trainers, transit researchers and disability experts. The goal is to provide simple solutions to problems and avoid potential crisis situations while getting people back on their route and to their destinations safely. To download or order a GET Going Pocket Guide in January, go to The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation at www.djfiddlefoundation.org or Easter Seals Project Action at www.projectaction.org.
Helping Adults with Dating
and Social Relationships
Another area that The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation Signature Programs have focused on in 2012 that has also been inspired by the needs expressed by adults on the spectrum: how to become a better dater and cultivate social relationships. This past year, the first Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation Ignition Grant Program that is co-funded by UJA Federation of New York was launched. The idea of the Ignition Grant is to fan the flame of program development for adults living with autism within the UJA Federation of New York agencies and service provider entities. UJA-Federation of New York supports a broad range of services for children and adults with developmental, behavioral, and physical disabilities including those on the autism spectrum. The first recipient of the Ignition Grant that was awarded last April is the JCC of Manhattan Adaptations Program led by Allison Kleinman.
The Jewish Community Center of Manhattan (JCC) has developed a unique set of programs to help adults who live with autism and related challenges attain the skills they need to socialize, date, and form relationships. The JCC programs combine professional guidance with practical “real world” experiences to help participants navigate areas such as body awareness, making small talk, splitting a dinner check, creating a dating profile, meeting new people, intimacy, and sexuality. The funding also has allowed the JCC to expand its roster of social gatherings to provide 20- and 30-something participants a place to go to hang out and meet new friends. Allison Kleinman, Director of the Adaptations Programs at the JCC of Manhattan says, “The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation Ignition Grant has allowed us to work with participants on building the skills and confidence they need to form friendships and romantic relationships.”
In the year ahead, these and other innovative projects will help to educate and prepare adults living with autism with the skills and support they have asked for to participate in and contribute to community life. The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation’s decade of volunteer-service to the Autism community will continue as we enter our second decade with the goal we have had from day to one: to help create the most fulfilling lives possible for all people living with Autism in a world that respects each person and encourages their strengths and talents.
Linda Walder Fiddle leads The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation that she founded in 2002 in honor and memory of her son Danny who lived with autism. The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation was the first national autism organization to focus exclusively on adults living with autism spectrum challenges. Since its inception, the all-volunteer run organization has developed and funded over one hundred programs as well as cutting-edge public service materials and resources for the autism community. In addition, DJF Foundation is a leading advocacy organization and has received numerous awards for its leadership in support of all people living with autism. For more information, please visit www.djfiddlefoundation.org.