Autism Coalition of Massachusetts is a networking collaborative of Massachusetts-based organizations that support individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders and their families, working together to improve quality of life by sharing resources, enhancing services, and being a collective voice throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to effect policy change.
The Autism Coalition of Massachusetts was established in 1999 as a result of a meeting with representatives from The Department of Developmental Services (formerly The Department of Mental Retardation) and autism support centers from across the state. Representatives from Asperger’s Association of New England (AANE) were also invited to be part of the meeting as they served families with children who, while on the autism spectrum, did not always qualify for services from the Department. Eventually, representatives from The Department faded back as the group continued to meet. The group became known as the Autism Coalition of Massachusetts.
Later that year, the Autism Coalition of Massachusetts coordinated the first Autism Awareness Day at The State House. This effort became the focus of the group for the next few years in addition to information sharing. As time elapsed, the need for fulltime advocacy on Beacon Hill became apparent, but it was beyond the scope of the Coalition’s capabilities. In response, the group grew and expanded to include The Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Autism, The Massachusetts Chapter of the Autism Society of America and other stakeholders in an attempt to address the need for a Statewide Political Advocacy Group.
After a year of strategic planning (in conjunction with The Arc of Massachusetts) the Coalition helped form a new group, Advocates For Autism of Massachusetts (AFAM). AFAM has grown over the years and is now recognized as the primary advocacy vehicle protecting the rights and needs of individuals with autism spectrum disorders and their families throughout the state. Today, the member organizations of the Autism Coalition of Massachusetts support and participate in AFAM to present a united voice for people with autism and to effect change on Beacon Hill. The various members of the Autism Coalition of Massachusetts serve as a conduit for information and action alerts with their constituency.
In recent years, AFAM was instrumental in the passage of “An Act Relative to Insurance Coverage for Autism” (ARICA). ARICA is the State of Massachusetts’ Autism Insurance Act.
An additional achievement of the Coalition’s efforts was the creation of The Department of Developmental Services Autism Division. The Division was created to meet the growing need of families raising children with autism spectrum disorders in the Commonwealth. Shortly after the creation of The Autism Division, The Department of Developmental Services developed the Autism Waiver Program. This resulted in expansion in the autism support centers to include Autism Support Brokers, who work with families enrolled in the waiver program. Additionally the Division worked to create a homogeneous array of services across the state for families served by The Autism Division. By surveying what programs the various centers offered, The Division directed the centers to provide specific services and allocated funding for those services in the categories of Social Skills, Recreational Programs, Sensory Programs and IEP, Visual and ADL Clinics.
Today, by working together, the member organizations of the Autism Coalition of Massachusetts seeks to improve the lives of individuals with autism spectrum disorders in the Commonwealth through access to information, referrals to appropriate agencies and contact with service providers across the entire state.