The Autism Society Event and Education Recordings Archive

Use this site to access recordings and presentations from National Conferences

Autism Society records most keynote and concurrent sessions at their annual conferences. You can see and hear those recordings by purchasing full online access, or individual recordings.

5491 Community Avenues for Autism: Tools Paving the Way to Independence and Integration

Friday, July 8, 2011: 1:15 PM-2:30 PM
Sanibel 123 (Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center)
The Autism Program of Illinois (TAP) will share the background and purpose for the creation of free resources available to help individuals with ASDs to become more active and independent community members through the Community Avenues for Autism initiative. Free tools are available for readers of different abilities and include museums, libraries, airports and public transportation. This project received a Pepsi Refresh grant and was accomplished in conjunction with the City of Chicago and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. ABSTRACT

The Autism Program of Illinois (TAP) devotes substantial resources to provision of clinical services and professional and parent training to enhance the lives of individuals with ASD and their families.   Families served through TAP programs have encouraged us to broaden our activities to advance community-based supports that provide increased, awareness, independence and integration.   Society is becoming more aware that individuals with an ASD need access to specialized clinical and educational services.  Unfortunately, our focus on these critical areas of need often eclipses more ordinary needs— the need for public transportation, entertainment, and community involvement.  Illinois is home to diverse communities with widely varying resources, some of which are complex and difficult to navigate for individuals with an ASD.

TAP, through Community Avenues for Autism, is assisting individuals in accessing resources that enrich their lives and allow for increased community involvement.   Presenters will focus on the need, resource design, and effective utilization of tools created as part of this initiative.  Participants will have an opportunity to talk with presenters about how to develop similar initiatives in their locations.


The Community Avenues for Autism initiative was spurred by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley’s ongoing efforts to make his city one of the most accessible in the nation for individuals with disabilities.  The Autism Program of Illinois (TAP), consistent with the ongoing reliance on public and private partnerships, is working with various divisions within the City of Chicago to increase accessibility and outreach.  TAP has developed training curricula, on-line tools, and programs to assist individuals with ASDs in navigating community resources such as airports, libraries, museums and public transportation.  While tools were made in conjunction with Chicago partners, they are useful in application for other similar community resources nationwide.

Community Avenues for Accessibility has garnered broad appeal.   TAP enrolled in the Pepsi Refresh Project and through online voting won a $25,000 grant. With the help of Pepsi and GOOD, a supporting foundation, this initiative has realized substantial growth and online tools for free download by anyone worldwide. The ongoing support of these two national organizations has given TAP the opportunity to receive national media coverage to acquire support from other communities to expand the project to reach even more individuals on the spectrum.


Phase One:  TAP staff utilize top-down and bottom-up strategies to build interest and support within relevant municipal divisions.  This process provides a needs-assessment and supports products that are individualized to meet needs of a specific division and persons served through that division.  TAP staff conduct on-site reviews and meet with relevant division staff to gather information and visuals necessary for resource development.  Formal working agreements have been helpful in setting timelines and parameters for each project.

Phase Two:  Utilizing best practice standards, TAP staff create training and resource materials (visual supports, social guides, rule cards, ancillary activities).  

Phase Three:  Training and resource materials are piloted.

Phase Four:  Training and resource materials are disseminated to intended population.  On-line access has been critical to individualization (planned activities and functioning level) and dissemination of supports. 

Social guides and visual schedules are available online for download, free of charge. The website has the capability to allow individuals to make their own visual schedule with drag and drop technology to better accommodate individuals with ASDs.  During the presentation, speakers will explain how to use these online tools and make them most useful for application in the community.

Regular, planned training and outreach to municipal divisions provides opportunities for formative evaluation and project amendment as needed.  Speakers will explain the types of training available and how they could be adapted in other communities.

Importance of Independence

Speakers will address the long-term individual and societal benefits of increased independence and community engagement for persons with ASD.


Learning Objectives:

  • Teach individuals how to partner with community agencies to implement similiar programs in their communities.
  • Speakers will explain how to use these online tools and make them most useful for application in the community.

Content Area: Long-term Services and Support


Georgia Winson, M.S., Psychology
Chief Administrator
The Autism Program of Illinois

Ms. Winson provides oversight for The Autism Program of Illinois (TAP), a network of 30 agencies and universities committed to evidence-based services for children with autism. TAP’s regional centers provide a strong focus on community engagement and integration. Ms. Winson received her Master’s degree in Psychology from Illinois State University.

Jessie Decker, M.A. in progress
Community Outreach Specialist
The Autism Program of Illinois

Ms. Decker handles all TAP communication including e-newsletters, press releases, website content, and graphic design work to enhance awareness of autism programs. Ms. Decker holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia and is currently working toward a Master’s in Communication from the University of Illinois-Springfield.