The history of The Autism Project, How The Autism Project Rhode Island was started


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History of The Autism Project

The RI Autism Project (our original name) came about as a result of growing concern among special educators, therapists and parents of children with autism about the lack of resources and programming available to children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (Autism, High Functioning Autism, PDD-NOS and Asperger’s Syndrome as described in the DSM-IV manual) in the state of Rhode Island.

The Autism Society of Rhode Island formed an ad hoc committee of parents, therapists, administrators, autism specialists, union representatives, members of the medical, health care and early intervention communities in early 1997.  The result was a request for funding through the Rhode Island Department of Education – Office of Special Needs.

For three years, the Rhode Island Department of Education awarded a grant to the RI Autism Project, through a fiscal agent, the East Greenwich Public Schools.  As the Project gained momentum, it became clear that the Rhode Island Department of Education as a single source of funding would be inadequate to meet its growing needs.  Accordingly, the Autism Project incorporated in 2000 and began looking for alternative sources of funding.

Funding through the Department of Education ended in September 2001. Recognizing the importance of providing a statewide coordinator for autism, the Project’s only full-time paid employee became an employee of the state under the Rhode Island Technical Assistance Program (RITAP) at Rhode Island College.

An Executive Director was hired in 2002 to grow the business into an independent non-profit organization. The organization continued to offer training and support to school districts, education professionals and parents through a variety of mediums including a parent training series, a state-wide conference with national speakers for all who work, support or live with an individual with ASD.

In the last fifteen years the organization has expanded to offer three levels of parent and professional training, multiple workshops, social skills groups for all abilities, training, consultation and mentoring for educators in public schools, a summer camp, caregiver support, a Resource Center, advocacy, and public awareness.

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