Transcripts of full meetings of the council.

Thank you for having me here today.

What I would ask you to do is imagine for a minute that you grew up in Philadelphia and you grew up attending Phillies games, like most of us are hard-core Philly fans in the City, and when you thought about having your own kids one day, you thought you would want to take them to the Park. And when you had your own kids, you brought them to the Park, but one of your kids had trouble getting out of the car and making it into the stadium. They had trouble waiting on line. They had trouble being jostled or with the sounds, and then they started to rock and maybe to scream. They could not follow directions. Maybe they ran away and didn't turn when their name was called. And so you went home and were unable to attend the game with your children.

This is a common fear and sometimes an experience of some of the families that I see when I diagnose and treat them with autism.

Autism is primarily a social disability, and it affects social skills, communication, and behavior, all of the things that you need to be in the community. And so when I would see my patients, I found frequently that they were telling me that they did not go out. They stayed home. They had children that looked typical that then did not act typically, and when they went into public spaces and this happened, people looked at them as if they were bad parents.

I have to tell you, when I practice medicine, probably every day, some weeks probably even maybe twice a day, I would tell a family that their child had autism, and I used to compensate for that by making sure that they had the best educational and therapeutic and medical plans that I could put together for them, and I would call their schools and their other clinicians to help make sure that they got those plans. But I found that it wasn't enough.

When my families went to bed at night, they weren't worried about necessarily what had caused the autism anymore or maybe they didn't think that the cure was going to happen in the lifetime of their child, and they weren't worried about the controversies like the immunizations. And all of those things are very important and they get a lot of resources. They were worried about having a typical family experience with their child the next day, about taking care of the things they needed to take care of for their family. They were worried about their typical siblings of their child with autism and about them having experiences like going to the ballpark.

And the other thing that they told me, my families in my practice, was that they worried like all parents worry, but more, about what was going to happen one day when they were gone. And both of those concerns, what they were going to do tomorrow and what was going to happen when they were gone, spoke to me about independence and the need for us to try to get individuals with autism as independent as possible in the community. And while there had been some research into helping individuals with developmental disabilities develop skills for independence, there hadn't been a lot done in the community itself, and that's what I decided to do.

I wish I could say it was a total selfless act, but to be honest, I just couldn't give the diagnosis every day knowing that I really wasn't helping my families with their biggest concerns.

So what we do now in my non-profit is, we've started to prepare families, and we prepare them with tools like special stories or photographs or picture schedules, and then we go to community venues, like Citizens Bank Park, and we provide education about autism awareness, providing facts and strategies about what autism is and what about autism can limit public experiences, and then we provide supportive practice experiences in these public settings.

So what that meant to us is that last month, Heather, who is my awesome student here, spent about 14 evenings at Citizens Bank Park providing these sessions for about 3,000 employees of the Phillies and Aramark and --

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