April 2016 Update


Who do you know with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD)?

Given the threefold increase in prevalence of ASD in the past 12 years, chances are you know someone. April is National Autism Awareness Month, and we are giving special thanks for the dedicated funders and donors whose mission is to make life easier for families dealing with autism spectrum disorders. Please take a few minutes to read below why Shubhrajan Wadyal, MD, our Medical Director of Autism Services, considers these families to be some of the "most interesting and greatest people you will meet." And continue reading below to learn more about the widespread impact donors like you have helped our autism resource center achieve. Thank you to Dr. Wadyal, our entire autism team, and each of you for caring so much about these families and this incredibly important cause, which affects so many of the people we know and love.

Melanie Furlan
Vice President, Advancement
Alexian Brothers Foundation

Imagine every moment of your day was more complicated.

You can't just get in the car. Your child is having a great deal of anxiety. You have to buckle him in. Children with autism can't vary from routine. You're getting calls from school saying come get her. He's hurting himself. She's hurting someone else. Your child has a lot of trouble loving you back. With dealing with all of that, you have to go forward with love in your heart and do everything for this person. And you have to do everything without a lot of resources in place to help you.

Caring for a child with an autism spectrum disorder takes a special kind of person.

And getting to work with these families is an honor. Families living with autism spectrum disorders are some of the most interesting and greatest people you will meet. Sometimes I have a tough patient, and in 15 minutes I'm worn out. And I have to think to myself: What if that was my life all day, just having this child who is struggling?

This is where my passion lies.

No one in my family has autism. I just want to do this work. And I think I kind of fell into it because not many other people want to do it. So here I am. And I love my job. I came to AMITA in July 2014 because I genuinely want to work with this population. In my residency and fellowship at Louisiana State University, I developed a great interest in research of autism and medications we can use to treat kids, and it became what I wanted to make a focus of my practice. Louisiana is a poor state. After Hurricane Katrina, we were the only charity medical center left in the state. So people from five or six hours away from four different states would come there. And a lot of the people had autism, and they didn't have services in place. I was struck by how these families were deeply affected by it.

This is a tough illness to treat.

Work with autistic children is extremely challenging and emotionally draining. There are limitations of medications. A lot of times the kids we treat rely on Medicaid. Many have no access to any kind of money. And so the Foundation pays for them. I'm talking about children who are nonverbal, urinating on themselves, beating themselves. And in two visits, we've got a new kid.

It's about access to care.

This small set of rooms has become the hub of the northwest suburbs for helping these people. Everyone here has a distinct dedication to autism. We all support each other, and it is a concerted effort. But there's no funding for these services. It's not profitable to treat these kids. Families that are blessed enough to have insurance or have the ability to pay for services genuinely get much better outcomes, and their kids are much more stable. The Foundation patients and clients we serve have similar results because they have access to care. A lot of people suffering in our community do not need to suffer at the level at which they are. But simply not having a place to go for help is a problem. It's our hope and goal to make this that place and to expand so that we can care for this community. And donors make it possible for those who are less fortunate to have access to care that simply would not be available otherwise.

I believe in this place.

I genuinely believe that the people who are donating to provide care for these families are helping us do God's work. And nothing makes me happier than when a parent says, "It's been five years, and we just couldn't get anyone to see us." And then they get seen here, and the child gets better. I can't imagine a better way to spend my own money. And that's why I donated to the Foundation as an individual. Because I believe in this place.

Shubhrajan Wadyal, MD, is Medical Director of Autism Services for AMITA Health Behavioral Medicine. He is a Lifetime Member of the Alexian Brothers Foundation Physicians Council.

Thanks to the philanthropic leadership of the Foglia Family Foundation:

Families receive the vast majority of services at no charge thanks to philanthropy:

  • Since opening, the autism resource center has provided more than 4,000 families with resources, referrals, support and therapies.

  • Our center serves individuals from 18 months old through adulthood. Nearly 40% of families we serve are on Medicaid. About 2% have no insurance.

Because of donors, we are the only center in our area providing early therapeutic interventions to families on Medicaid:

  • In 2014, the generosity of funders enabled the autism resource center to begin providing pivotal response therapy and applied behavior therapy.

  • These specialized therapies teach very young children who struggle verbally, socially and emotionally to engage in healthier, more appropriate behaviors.

  • Treatment costs, which are not covered by Medicaid or private insurance, can exceed $60,000.

Philanthropy supports social skills groups, parent/tween and young adult groups, and a martial arts program:





Are you passionate about supporting families with ASD? A small contribution can make an incredibly big difference. Make a gift to our autism resource center. Or join our center's team at the Autism Speaks Walk on Saturday, May 14, 2016, at Soldier Field.

Thank you!