September 12, 2019 | Blog
Advice and Consent: Our Self-Governing Advisory Board
Why an Advisory Board?
At Els for Autism, we believe our total commitment to the lives of individuals and families impacted by autism spectrum disorder (ASD) makes us stand apart from other organizations and Foundations. This commitment is demonstrated throughout the various facets of the Foundation, including the programs and therapy services we offer, best practices we share, the research we participate in, and through our community outreach—which promotes the value, acceptance, and inclusion of people with ASD.
As we grow and expand, we believe it is important to continue to seek input from the individuals we are on a mission to help and posit questions such as, “how would someone with autism like this?” or “would this help people on the spectrum live more productive and rewarding lives?”. If we serve people with autism, we must listen to their voice and act upon their advice and direction.
Who are our members?
John Miller – John is middle school teacher who specializes in educating those with autism, and inaugural 2016 Awe in Autism speaker. As we education is one of our focus areas, we thought of John as a great addition to the board.
Ron Sandison – Ron is a professor of theology at the Divinity School of Ministry, and another inaugural 2016 Awe in Autism speaker. Religion can influence one’s morals, ethics, and perspectives on taking care of the world, so Ron’s insights are helpful.
Andrew Blitman – Andrew is a writer who helps run a workshop for disabled people. Last year he worked at the Foundation’s Movin’ and Groovin’ Summer Camp. Andrew’s creative side and experiences with the outreach branch of our Foundation are important to us.
Rachel Barcellona – The first Miss Florida contestant with autism, and the 2017 winner of the Els for Autism Spectrum Award, Rachel has developed her “Ability Beyond Disability” platform for eight years, and cares deeply about being a strong advocate for autism.
Adam Jones – The 2018 winner of the Els for Autism Spectrum Award, Adam brings knowledge from his work experience at Madison Fields, part of the Madison House Foundation. Adam’s can impart lessons learned from his workplace that may be beneficial our Foundation.
Hunter Huff – Hunter is a graduate of one of the Foundation’s signature programs–the Hospitality Work Experience Program, and his experiences with our program will be very helpful in determining a strategy and improvements for our programs/services.
Merrick Egber – Yeah, you should already know me. I’ve worked with the Foundation for over four years, doing a host of different things along with bringing an autistic perspective to my working environment. I’m the chairperson of the group.
What do we hope to accomplish?
We hope to showcase that neurotypical and autistic experts can work together to plot a better course for methodologies and practices when it comes to the autistic population. We hope to show clients and advocates within the community that we understand what the population really needs, and that we take their interests seriously. We want to make sure that our forward-thinking strategies will serve to influence and significantly improve the treatments of autistic individuals.
What challenges does the board face?
We have two challenges we must work on:
1. We are such a diverse and complex environment, that it is difficult to have a singular team of a few consultants working on influencing so many aspects of it. However, since we would be a prime example in the autism community, any successes derived from this model could have a greater outreach of influence.
2. Our members are not all local, we have a mix of Floridians and members from other states, yet through the usage of modern technology by offering virtual participation through video conference quarterly meetings, we’ve overcome the issue.
The next meeting in 2019 will be the first week of November. We will be talking about new and upcoming programs, what our board members believe are important discussion topics, and plans moving forward.