December 2019 Newsletter

Message from the Chairman

Since its founding in 2004, AFAM has vigorously advocated for – and achieved – a number of major successes, including passage of the anti-bullying bill, establishment of the Autism Division within the Department of Developmental Disabilities, passage of An Act Relative to Insurance Coverage for Autism (ARICA), and the landmark Omnibus Autism Bill, among many others. We take pride in what we have accomplished, and in the tremendous role played by you – our members and supporters – in making our advocacy efforts so effective.

Unlike many nonprofit organizations, AFAM rarely holds fundraising events to support our work. Instead, we rely heavily on voluntary contributions from our grass-roots members who know, first hand, how what we do has a real impact on the lives of their loved ones. Our recent 15th anniversary celebration was just that – a celebration of our advocacy efforts. The event drew many sponsors – autism support centers, schools and other organizations that serve the autism community, as well as individuals and families who are grateful for the positive role AFAM has played in their lives.

As an organization, AFAM has grown over the years, adding new organizations whose representatives serve on our Executive Committee. We are pleased to announce our newest member organization: Teamsters Local 25, headed by Sean O’Brien. For many years, they have been a powerful ally in advocating with us at the State House. And recognizing that many of their own members have family members on the autism spectrum, they have raised and distributed thousands of dollars to support them.

With best wishes to you and your family a happy and safe holiday season!

Michael J. Borr, Chairman

AFAM’s 15th Anniversary Celebration!

Nearly 200 people came together at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Natick on Thursday, October 24 to celebrate AFAM’s 15 years of advocacy, Co-chaired by Sue Linehan and Ilyse Levine-Kanji, the event was emceed by Channel 5’s news anchor,
Randy Price, and included a reception and dinner. During the reception, attendees were entertained by a jazz trio from the Berkshire Hills Music Academy, and had an opportunity to have their caricature drawn by veteran caricaturist John Doherty. During dinner, guests viewed a media presentation by Will Drinker, heard Gyasi Burks-Abbott talk about what AFAM has meant to him, and witnessed the presentation of awards. One went to Sean O’Brien, President of Teamsters Local 25, who received the Sustained Commitment Award; Employmrent Opportunities Awards were presented to Dell Technologies and SimpliSafe Home Security Systems.

Government Affairs

SAVE THE DATE for AFAM’s annual Autism Advocacy Day at the State House on Tuesday, April 7, 2020. Watch for details by following AFAM on Facebook and other social media.

Legislative Update

Nicky’s Law passes through the Senate now on to the House!

In October, the Senate passed Nicky’s Law unanimously. The Senate accepted one technical amendment and moved the bill onto House Ways and Means. In the last month, the House passed a 1.5 billion dollar education bill along with the hands free driving legislation and a comprehensive children’s health care bill. During this time, dozens of Representatives have stepped up to prioritize Nicky’s Law.

The Arc of Mass has had important meetings with the Chairman and the Speaker and nudged every single Representative to ensure that we will have a favorable vote. The House is in strong support of Nicky’s Law but in order to get the bill to the floor as soon as possible after the holiday, for a vote, we must have many Representatives bring this to Ways and Means as their priority. Please contact your Representative!

AFAM is grateful to the bill sponsor Rep Campbell, Chair Khan and Rep Cutler for their work and dedication to this legislation. AFAM also gained new, strong support for Nicky’s Law through the Teamsters Local 25.

In other legislative news, Criminal Justice Training Regarding Autistic Persons has moved into Ways and Means. This bill will codify an existing training program, run by The Arc of South Norfolk, called the ALEC program. ALEC trains police academy cadets across the state on best practices when coming in contact with an individual on the autism spectrum or with another intellectual or developmental disability. The bill would also broaden this type of training to include Corrections Officers. We are grateful for the support from many Police Chiefs across the state as well as the Sheriff of Norfolk County, Jerry McDermott.

Lastly, an update from the Committee on Public Health,where there are two important bills being reviewed. The first bill will help The Arc of Mass expand the Operation House Call program to all healthcare professionals across the state and the second bill will help people with autism and I/DD have receive better care in the hospital by development of a training in best practices. If you want to learn more about Nicky’s Law or any of AFAM’s priority legislation, please contact Maura Sullivan at or at 781 -891-6270- ext 113.

News and Announcements

Bridgewell’s Family Support Center and the Center for Professional Development will present The Invisible End of the Spectrum: Older Autistic Adults on Friday, December 13 from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., with networking lunch and Q & A to follow. Location: 10 Dearborn Road, Peabody. The program will be presented by Eric Endlich, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist and co-author of the book, Older Autistic Adults: The Lost Generation. He is also an autism dad. The workshop is free but pre-registration is required. Online registration will open on October 1. For more information, please contact Kristen Janjar, MPA at or 781-776-4137.

WGBH’s A Christmas Celtic Sojourn with Brian O’Donovan – Sensory-Friendly Performance will be held at the Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston on Friday, December 20 at 3 p.m. The one hour concert will include songs, dances, and poetry reflective of the Celtic Christmas spirit. The performance showcases the compelling and diverse offerings of the weekly and national radio programs that explore traditional and contemporary music from around the Celtic world. There will be several sing alongs using both familiar and perhaps unfamiliar Christmas songs to spark the holiday spirit within us all. The sensory-friendly performance will be a concert dedicated to creating a more welcoming and accessible space for individuals with sensory input disorders, including autism spectrum disorder. There will be modifications throughout the theatre space to create a friendly and supportive environment, encouraging patrons to experience the magic of theatre in their own way. Families, friends and caregivers of individuals with sensory input disorders are also encouraged to attend. To purchase tickets online, go to

AANE will hold its annual Jody Acford Conference, A Roadmap Through Adulthood: Making Sense of Public and Private Support Systems for Adults on the Spectrum, on Saturday, January 11 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Bentley University (175 Forest Street, Waltham). This conference is for teens, young adults, and adults with Asperger’s or similar autism profiles, their parents/guardians, and professionals. Space is limited so register visiting their website

Bridgewell invites you to attend The Invisible End of the Spectrum: Older Autistic Adults on February 21 from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at 10 Dearborn Rd. Peabody, MA This program is approved for CEU’s for Social Workers. When people hear the word “autism,” they often think of children and teens. Older adults on the spectrum are a very real, but little-understood, group. In this workshop, we will review what we know about this population, including recent findings from an international study of 150 people.

Bridgewell presents Trauma-Informed FBAs and BIPs : An Interdisciplinary Team Assessment & Intervention Approach at Grand View Farms Burlington, MA on Friday, March 6, 2020 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. This program is approved for CEU’s for Social Workers and BCBAs.
Trauma has a pervasive impact on a child’s development, often manifesting in challenging behaviors at school that interfere with his/her ability to learn. Assessing and planning effective interventions for students with a trauma history can be a difficult task for school-based BCBAs and social workers. This workshop will present a practical guide for conducting school-based Functional Behavior Assessments (FBA) utilizing an interdisciplinary approach. Workshop participants will learn specific ways to expand on the core components of a FBA and ten evidence-based behavioral interventions for students with a trauma history. Ethical considerations and MA state initiatives will be integrated throughout the workshop. Specific case examples will be discussed and participants will have access to a “tool kit” and resources for practical implementation.
Register on-line at

Autism Speaks New England has moved to a new office space in Boston. The new address is 88 Broad Street, 5th Floor, Boston, MA 02110

SAVE THE DATE for Autism Connections’ 30th Annual Autism Conference, which will be held on Thursday, April 2, 2020 (which is World Autism Day) at the Sheraton Springfield Monarch Place. Keynote speaker is award-winning, best-selling author Kerry Magro. Registration will open in January. For sponsorship and other information, contact Autism Connections at 413-529-2428.

Spectrum – a student-led volunteer program at Brandeis University – works with children and teens (ages 3-18) with intellectual and developmental disabilities including autism. They offer tutoring and mentoring programs that involve one-on-one sessions with trained Brandeis student volunteers, as well as a playgroup program for younger children. All programs are free and take place on the Brandeis campus in Waltham. Mentoring and tutoring programs take place one hour per week at a time which is decided between the volunteer and the child’s family. The playgroup program meets every Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m. The playgroup program has a structured schedule that involves arts and crafts, games, outdoor activities, and working on social skills. For more information, contact

The University of Massachusetts Lowell is currently recruiting for the HORIZONS College Preparation Mentoring Program for High School Students on the Autism Spectrum. We are now recruiting for Spring 2020. Horizons is designed to help high school students on the autism spectrum learn more about college and feel more confident about attending college in the future.

High school students who plan to go to college in the next year or two will meet with their mentor (a trained UMass Lowell student) once a week for an hour, for seven weeks at a time convenient to them. Participants do not have to be considering UMass Lowell as one of the colleges they are planning to attend. The program curriculum includes topics such as “Why go to college?”; “What will a typical college day look like?”; “How do I manage my time at college?”, “How do I access supports on campus?”, “How can I meet people on campus?” etc. Meetings are either in-person at UMass Lowell or online through Google Hangouts. Meetings will start in February 2020. There is a $75 fee to participate in the program (scholarships are available to cover the fee). Space in Horizons is limited and fills up quickly. Please visit our website for more information: and contact Ashleigh Hillier with any questions and for an enrollment form:

The Lurie Center is offering a series of small-group informational workshops for parents, caregivers and families about Understanding the Guardianship Process in Massachusetts. All sessions will take place at the MGH Lurie Center (1 Maguire Road, Lexington).

The process of pursuing legal guardianship for an adult child can be confusing, costly, time consuming and overwhelming for parents and caregivers. If you have a teen or young adult with autism spectrum disorder and/or Intellectual Disability, who is approaching the age of majority (18 years) and may not be able to make informed decisions, we can help.

These workshops are designed to provide information, coaching and resources for those who live in Massachusetts but not to give legal advice.

Guardianship 101 The Basics
Monthly: 1st and 3rd Thursdays: 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM
Fee: $10 per Person/Family

This workshop is designed for parents/caregivers who are at the beginning of the process. The session is intended to review the basics of the guardianship process, includying types of guardianships, alternatives and how to determine if your child needs a guardian when turning 18.

Guardianship 102 Completing the Paperwork
Monthly: 2nd and 4th Thursdays: 11:00 – 12:30 PM
Fee: $50 per Person/Family Group Session or
$100 per one-on-one Session

This workshop is a hands-on group tutorial that includes review of the relevant checklists, time frames and probate court processes. Assistance with completing required documentation is also provided. The workshop goal is to offer coaching and instruction, not legal advice or representation

For additional news, please visit the websites of our Founding Organizations

Autism Support Center
6 Southside Road
Danvers, MA 01923

HMEA’s Autism Resource Central
712 Plantation Street
Worcester, MA 01605

Pathlight’s Autism Connections
116 Pleasant Street, Suite 366
Easthampton, MA 01027

Family Autism Center
789 Clapboardtree Street
Westwood, MA 02090

TILL’s Autism Support Center
20 Eastbrook Road, Suite 201
Dedham, MA 02026
781-302-4600 www.tillinc.autism_support.html

Autism Alliance of MetroWest
1881 Worcester Road
Framingham, MA 01701

Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation
1661 Worcester Road, Suite 102
Framingham, MA 01701

The Arc of Massachusetts
217 South Street
Waltham, MA 02453
781-891-6270, ext. 102

Massachusetts Advocates for Children
25 Kingston Street. 2nd Floor
Boston, MA 02111

Autism Speaks, Inc. – New England Chapter
88 Broad Street, 5th Floor
Boston, MA 02110

Charles River Center
59 E. Militia Heights Road
Needham, MA 02492

The Arc of Bristol County
141 Park Street
Attleboro, MA

Asperger/Autism Network (AANE)
51 Water Street. Suite 206
Watertown, MA 02472

10 Dearborn Road
Peabody, MA 01960

Teamsters Local 25
544 Main Street
Boston, MA 02129