Providing Consistent Support Is Critical

Chrisoula Perdziola, Resource Specialist with Autism Connection of PA holding an Hello sign sitting in front of her desk and laptop.
Providing Consistent Support Is Critical

Article by Luciana Randall, President, Autism Connection of PA

There are many parts of our mission “to be a lifeline” we could write about - some are energizing, like our project with Achieva Early Intervention, reaching out to little ones in minority communities to screen many and evaluate some, and get them set on the course early. This will take off soon with help from UPMC Family Medicine and the University of Pittsburgh School of Health Sciences Social Justice Fellow Dr. Daniel Wilkenfeld, plus nine (9) Federally Qualified Community Health Centers.

We could also discuss meeting critical needs when adults get caught in the justice system due to their disabilities without any criminal intent. But let’s talk about “meat and potatoes” work (sorry, vegetarians!). The steady build of our weekly e-news, cultivated weekly by Jennifer Salamon for ten years before her recent graduation from us, is now strategically planned and produced by Director of Operations, Tammi Morton.

E-news isn’t “sexy” or earth-shattering, or award-winning, but a recent call from long-time supporter Dr. Marilyn Hoyson, CEO of the Watson Institute, taught a valuable lesson. Sometimes the things we work hard at routinely become part of our fabric but are actually a lifeline for others we may be unaware of. Marilyn said, “I want you to know how valuable that email is. Every week members of my grandparents’ support group (which she has been running as a volunteer since 2015) read your news. And this has become like a book club. The articles are varied, interesting, unique, and apply to their lives in many ways. This makes running the group richer and really develops the conversations at a higher level. Thank you for doing that every week!”

Sometimes funders, and even we ourselves, expect to constantly create an ever-improving new “wheel” to be innovative, clever, and more elaborate in our output. But Autism Connection has been unique since 1996, thanks to founding board members and original staff. It exists “outside the box,” filling ever-evolving needs for the simple reason we listen to what people want, and like Nike, we “just do it.” 

Things don’t have to be fancy to be valuable, even if society says, “make it glam, sparkly, newer, bigger, better.” Multi-year board member Jeff Poholsky, a great strategic thinker, taught us way back, “Don’t worry about getting bigger. Just work to make what you already do better.” That’s what we appreciate about our support groups who have stuck together, some for over a decade. Just being there for people consistently is critical. As professionals, we are glad to keep answering each call or email with a consistent voice, thanks to our Resource Specialist, Chrisoula Perdziola. Learning from our friends of all ages and stages in the autism community is the biggest benefit of all, and that’s not fancy - it’s just what keeps us happy to go to work every single day.

Read more in Summer Newsletter