This April is the fifth annual Autism Awareness Month, and on April 2 the World Autism Awareness Day was celebrated in order to recognize Autism as a growing global health crisis. WAAD activities help to increase and develop world knowledge of the autism epidemic and impart information regarding the importance of early diagnosis and early intervention. Additionally, WAAD celebrates the unique talents and skills of persons with autism and is a day when individuals with autism are warmly welcomed and embraced in community events around the globe.
In today’s Autism Speaks special edition we met with three individuals whose work directly benefits those who are celebrated and honored on this day.
Sheila Wagner/Emory Autism Center
Ms. Wagner is the Assistant Director of the Emory Autism Center at Emory University, and Program Manager for the Monarch School-age program. She is a certified special education teacher and teacher consultant on educating students with Autism for close to 30 years. Ms. Wagner is a teacher and school consultant, national and international lecturer on educating students with Autism Spectrum Disorders, project director for a multi-county Inclusion Project affecting more than 600 students with ASD in the state of Georgia, and is a long term member of an interdisciplinary diagnostic team.
Ms. Wagner is an award winning author of four publications in the area of ASD, including “Inclusive Programming for Elementary Students with Autism” (1999), “Inclusive Programming for Middle School Student with Autism and Asperger’s syndrome” (2001), “Inclusive Programming for High School Student with Autism and Asperger’s” (1999), and “Understanding Asperger’s Syndrome: Fast Facts” (Future Horizons, Inc.,2004). Both the elementary and the high school books won the Autism Society of America Outstanding Literary Work of the Year (2001 and 2010 respectively). She has also published a chapter on educating females with Asperger’s syndrome in T. Grandin and T. Attwood’s book, Asperger’s and Girls (Future Horizons). Ms. Wagner contributes bi- weekly articles on ASD to NBC.Com’s popular television show Parenthood website. She consults with school districts and families throughout the State of Georgia and nation on school issues for students with autism/AS and lives in the Atlanta area.
The Emory Autism Center is a component of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine. The program was opened in 1991 as a public, private and University collaboration. Since opening, the Emory Autism Center has become a national model for diagnosis, family support and innovative treatment, as well as a vital source of professional training.
Judy Tatro/Nobis Works
Judy Tatro is the On Site Project Manager for EPA Mailroom with Nobis Works. Nobis Works is a non-profit organization that helps people with disabilities and other barriers to employment find meaningful work. This happens through evaluation, training and employment services both at the center and in the community. Nobis Works serves youth & adults with all types of disabilities, and sees that the population on the Autism spectrum is growing. Nobis Works recognizes that this disability requires special training and support services, and has created employment opportunities to help foster independence and success in the workplace for individuals on the Autism spectrum.
Danny Umali/Strategic Planning Group
Danny Umali helps families with special needs place their loved ones in the best possible financial situation through his Strategic Planning Group. Danny began his career recently as a financial services professional and has decided to place his focus on this special needs planning.
His wife of 15 years, Karen, had a direct link to the special needs community. For the past 7 years she has played a vital role at The Joseph Sams School in Fayetteville, GA where she worked full-time as a member of the speech department. After meeting with some of the families that she worked with, Danny realized that many of them are not aware of the options that are available. It was clear to both of them that these special individuals are bright, capable, and deserving of a full and happy life. It is Danny’s hope that he can work with the families of these special individuals in order to guide and help secure their future.
Karen has recently joined Danny as an associate with his practice in the summer of 2011. Together, they hope to reach out to as many families as possible.