Posts Tagged ‘Marianne Sullivan’

Get Quick Assistance

August 2, 2011 1 comment

The Family Services Department at Autism Speaks will now offer online Office Hours each Wednesday, starting Aug 3, 2011, from 1:00-2:30 pm.

Office Hours, a new resource available on the web at will easily connect families to a wide variety of autism-related resources, including Family Services’ Toolkits, and the Autism Speaks Resource Guide, an online national database of autism providers and resources searchable by state and zip code. Family Services’ Office Hours is designed to quickly provide access to resources that are available and free to the entire autism community.

“Having a family member with autism can easily lead to feeling isolated without knowing where to turn. In addition, most families have little free time to search for reliable information about autism, yet they may be in need of timely information. Office Hours offers a quick connection to the Autism Response Team(ART) who can assist you in getting the information you need as quickly as possible,” states Marianne Sullivan, Assistant Director of National Outreach and Resources.

The Office Hours resource is staffed by ART—who are specially trained to connect with families about autism resources.

In addition to Office Hours, ART is available by telephone during usual business hours at 888-AUTISM 2 (888-288-4762). Also, you can reach ART by email at:

To participate in Office Hours visit here.

Here is a list of Tool Kits our Family Services Team offers:

100 Day Kit

Manual de los 100 Días

School Community Tool Kit

Tips for Successful Haircuts

Transition Tool Kit

A Very Special Mother’s Day Gift: Independent Living for My Son, Hunter

This is a blog post by Marianne Sullivan, Assistant Director of National Outreach and Resources at Autism Speaks, and the mother of a young adult with autism.

This year on Mother’s Day I will celebrate something very special: the gift of independent living for my 18-year-old son, Hunter, who is challenged by severe autism.

Several months ago, Hunter moved to a new home in our community that was designed with supportive living services. While there was a lot of anxiety as we approached this move, the staff assisted in a smooth transition. Living in his new home, Hunter walks to the Coryell Autism Center where he is focused on acquiring new job skills, and to neighborhood stores. Hunter, like any other 18-year-old, shows great pride in his new independence. When I stop by to see him or when he comes to visit me, it becomes clear we have a new relationship.

For the past 16 years, Hunter struggled to overcome severe challenges posed by his autism. He made some remarkable gains through a school that our community developed for children like him. Adolescence was difficult, like for any teen, and he tried to assert independence while still being very dependent in many areas. As he began to develop community living skills like money management, grocery shopping, and participation in community activities, we realized how much more there was that needed to be addressed. It was during this time that we began to plan for the creation of a new residential model where independent living skills could be more systematically practiced on a daily basis.

Hunter endured another challenge during this period. After a 20 year marriage, his father and I separated and then divorced. Our entire family went through a long period of emotional turmoil. Ultimately, Hunter has been able to adjust to this and, like many other teens whose parents divorce, he has grown from this life process.

For those of you who might be thinking about creating an independent living situation for your teen, let me give some background to aid you in exploring your options. When Hunter turned 18, we applied for SSI from Social Security so he would have his own funds for Medicare and health insurance coverage. We also applied to the California Regional Center for services that would assist him to live on his own. Supportive Living Services (SLS) is a state program that offers a range of services to adults with developmental disabilities who, through the Individual Program Plan (IPP) process, are given help to live in homes they themselves own or lease in the community. SLS may include:

·     Assistance with locating, selecting and moving into a new home in the community

·     Support to improve one’s ability in common daily living activities, meal planning, personal finance management, etc.

·     Encouragement to become participating member in community life through volunteer or special job responsibilities

Finally, we were able to apply for and receive Federal Housing Section 8 assistance that subsidizes the rent he pays to the landlord of his new home.

As I reflect back this Mother’s Day on all that has happened, I take a deep breath and then can’t help but smile. I am so proud of all the work Hunter has done and grateful for all those who have helped our family get to this point. Like every mother, I continue to worry about the future but I also know that Hunter is prepared for challenges ahead.

From one mother to another, I wish a very Happy Mother’s Day to you!

Transition to Independent Living (TIL) – A Program of Opportunity

December 2, 2010 2 comments

This Family Services blog post by Marianne Sullivan, the Assistant Director of National Outreach and Resources for Autism Speaks. Marianne is the mother of an 18-year-old young man with autism.

California’s Taft Community College offers an invaluable Transition to Independent Living (TIL) program that provides adults with developmental disabilities the opportunity to work, live independently, and participate in their community while they earn a Transition to Independent Living certificate.

About two weeks ago, a group of us from Autism Speaks visited the Taft program in Kern County in hopes of gaining insights into this successful program.  As the mother of a son with autism who just celebrated his 18th birthday, and as a member of the Family Services Team at Autism Speaks, I know the impact of watching a child with autism become an adult with autism. I know all too well that the future will bring yet more concerns. For me, one of my greatest sources of hope comes from all of us working together to figure out what works and what doesn’t for the growing numbers of adults with autism.

The TIL Program at Taft is a two-year residential program that began in 1996. The program has a proven track record, with 82 percent of its graduates living independently. Currently, one third of the TIL students have autism, and the staff at TIL expects to see the demand increase as more and more individuals with autism transition to adulthood. Jeff Rose, the Director of Student Support Services, said that this year, one out of every two applicants seeking admission to the program is an individual with autism.

Students come from all over California to enroll in the TIL program, which immerses participants in an inclusive environment on a mainstream campus. The program provides instruction, training, and support in real world skills, with an emphasis on vocational skills; in other words, it helps individuals work toward obtaining real jobs for real pay. As part of our tour, we visited the dorm rooms of first year students, along with several homes in the community that house students during their second year. We found that students were successfully taught how to move about their community easily; going to grocery stores, churches, coffee shops, and movie theaters.

We had the opportunity to speak with a group of TIL students during our tour. Most shared their personal experiences in the program. Autism Speaks Board Member Brian Kelly asked the students, “What is your dream job?” Students gave a variety of answers, including a preschool teacher, a cartoon artist, and an IT support specialist. Although the dreams varied, the students expressed the motivation and commitment they will need in order to go after their dream job. They also recognized the TIL program as a stepping stone towards achieving their goals. The important insight our group took home is that students at TIL will have the opportunity to do just that. We all know that people with autism need to have opportunities to learn how to live independently, and get and maintain paying jobs. We also know that the more opportunities these individuals have, the greater skills and confidence they will be able to develop, and the greater the chances of realizing their goals.

Autism Speaks recognizes the tremendous need for programs such as Taft and asks other community colleges across the country to join Taft in developing transition programs to better prepare students with disabilities. In July 2010, Advancing Futures for Adults with Autism (AFAA)  developed an agenda for life-long living and learning for people with autism. AFAA’s agenda represents new projects/initiatives, and policy changes that will influence the quality of life for adults living with autism today!

For more information about the TIL program at Taft College visit

or call (661) 763-7775. You can also e-mail requests for information to

Taft’s TIL program has been awarded a Federal TPSID Grant and is part of the consortia of institutions under the model comprehensive Transition Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities (TPSID). There are 27 TPSID grantees, located in 23 states,


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