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5594 Community Accessibility Programming

Thursday, July 7, 2011: 3:15 PM-4:30 PM
Sun 1-2 (Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center)
Much focus on autism relates to causes, cures, and controversies. However, community inclusion is equally critical as it directly relates to both quality of life and future independence. This session will explore reasons, strategies, and lessons learned through efforts to include families affected by autism into the community. It will highlight a congressionally recognized autism airport accessibility program created by a multi-disciplinary group of professionals. In our clinical practices, families affected by autism report that their children can lack the social skills necessary to intuitively have successful experiences in the community.  In addition to the concern that these children may not be able to access community settings, there is a risk that they may be more affected by novel environments and unexpected events, leading to negative behaviors.  Parents therefore reported a reluctance to engage in the community that impacts not only the child with autism, but the family unit as a whole.

Historically, the autism community has focused on the causes, cures, and controversies surrounding autism spectrum disorders, all worthy research pursuits.  However, we feel strongly that community accessibility for children is critical for laying the foundation for successful community inclusion later in life.  We feel that every year that a child is not in the community directly affects their developmental trajectory, as well as the trajectories of their families and our society as a whole.  Although some efforts for community inclusion have been made sporadically in different geographic locations and community settings, no unified approach has been undertaken to date.

Community organizations have legal obligations to be accessible per the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Frequently, however, guidelines developed pertain more to physical disabilities than neuro-developmental difficulties like autism.

Our multi-disciplinary group has begun a program for working with both families and community organizations to promote meaningful experiences for families affected by autism in the community.  We feel that this is important as it is the right thing to do, it is the law, and it makes financial sense for organizations to be inclusive as families affected by autism comprise a large part of the market. We also feel that it is imperative for the future of these families and society.  It is unrealistic to expect children with autism to wake up in their twenties and suddenly be independent, let alone employable, when they have not been adequately prepared and established a comfort level with community engagement.

Over the past several years, we have been working with families and community settings like museums, theaters, and airports to develop and refine strategies for meaningful community inclusion in an effort to create best practices for universal accessibility.  This session will highlight the reasons behind our efforts, a conceptual framework for designing inclusive community programs, several of our specific strategies, and lessons learned in trying to build a bridge between families and community settings.  Particular focus will be paid to the congressionally recognized autism airport accessibility program, and our efforts to launch a national implementation model.

Talk can be given alternatively in Spanish by Dr. Marquez.

Learning Objectives:

  • Articulate reasons for the importance of community accessibility.
  • Identify strategies for community inclusion.
  • Describe characteristics of successful inclusion programs.

Content Area: Life with Autism


Wendy J. Ross, M.D., FAAP
Founder, Autism Inclusion Resources
Autism Inclusion Resources

Wendy Ross, MD, FAAP is a developmental pediatrician respected for her work on inclusion. With a multi-disciplinary group, she has created a congressionally recognized air travel program. She has worked with museums, including the Smithsonian. Currently, she is creating inclusion programs for the Phillies and Eagles.

Rebecca B. Jackel, M.A.
Speech/Language Pathologist
Moss Rehab Hospital

Rebecca Jackel is an outpatient pediatric speech/language pathologist at Moss Rehab Hospital in Philadelphia. She focuses on autism, speech/language disorders, oral motor/feeding disorders and reading disorders. She has been practicing in the field for almost 30 years.

Roger I. Ideishi, J.D., OT/L
Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy
University of the Sciences, Philadelphia

Roger Ideishi is an Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy at the University of the Sciences. He is interested in participation in community experiences for children with special needs and their families. He has directed community projects bringing inclusive Head Start preschools together with community institutions such as theaters and museums.

Yahaira I. Marquez, Ph.D.
Albert Einstein Medical Center

Dr. Marquez is a bilingual licensed psychologist who has been working with children with special needs during the last 10 years. Providing training in Spanish to families and professionals is her passion. She has been working with Dr. Ross in her Airport Accessibility Program since the first airport practice.