The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation, the nation's first not-for-profit organization to exclusively focus on adults with autism, will launch a ground-breaking endowment fund at Rutgers School of Social Work, adding to the Foundation's existing endowed program initiatives at Brown University, Yale University, and the University of Miami.
With a gift of $100,000, The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation Adult Autism Family Support Fellowship and Resource Guide Fund has established a partnership with Rutgers School of Social Work. The fund will support the work of three or four SSW graduate students as fellows each year.The goal is to improve outcomes for family members of adults with autism and address the concerns and challenges they face as caregivers.
The fellows will also create and update bi-annually a web-based resource guide for families, organizations, and agencies. The resource guide will be featured on the Rutgers SSW website so that the community at large can also benefit.The fund will be led by Dr. Cathryn Potter, Dean of Rutgers School of Social Work, and by Mark Lamar, Associate Professor of Professional Practice and Executive Director of the Office of Field Education at Rutgers.
Dean Potter sees this partnership as a much-needed resource for an underserved population. "As young adults begin to age out of high school programs, we must find ways to provide services for their continued success, and for the success of their families," she explains. “Our graduate students are very motivated to create lasting and real change where it is most needed. Creating tangible resources for autistic adults will make a significant, positive difference in the quality of lives.”
“We know that tackling the challenges posed by autism requires a comprehensive approach. This first-of-its kind collaboration between the Rutgers School of Social Work and The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation is key to improving outcomes for family members of adults with autism and addressing the difficult challenges they face as caregivers,” says Senator Bob Menendez, a longtime advocate for individuals with autism and supporter of the Foundation. “I am hopeful it can become a model for the nation so that we can best ensure those with autism are able to fulfill their God-given potential and become successful, independent adults.”
The Daniel J. Fiddle Foundation university endowment initiatives continue to expand the Foundation’s mission for a global focus on adult autism. Designed to increase awareness opportunities, and knowledge about aging and autism, each of the four endowed programs serve a specific area relating to adult autism: research, program development, fostering creativity and expression through the arts, and counseling and resources for family members of adults on the spectrum.
Founded in 2002 by Linda J. Walder, a pioneer in the adult autism arena, The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation has blazed trails to develop, fund, and advocate for programs and public policy related to all aspects of adult life such as job training, residential living, the arts, recreation, health and wellness, and socialization. DJFF is named in honor of Walder’s son Danny, who was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and passed away at age nine.
The Foundation's endowed program funds are opening new doors with the establishment of in perpetuity adult-autism-focused collaborations with the nation's leading researchers and practitioners at renowned universities. They are poised to lead and address critical issues in adult autism and will advance the creation of new research and model programs to expand opportunities for the diverse adult autistic population.
"Our aim is to ensure that for generations to come there will be an impactful focus on adult autism.Today, there are millions of autistic adults, and we need to do more to understand adult autism and to create as many paths as we can for adults to participate in and contribute to community life,” explains Walder. “It is a matter of human rights for all autistic adults to be accepted for who they are and to live the fullest lives possible.”
The Rutgers program will be the first in the nation to focus specifically on the family members of adults who are navigating a complex system without much support.
”We are so grateful for the vision of Dean Potter in understanding that autism impacts all family members for a lifetime,” says Walder.
For additional information about The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation and its endowed and signature programs for autistic adults, visit www.djfiddlefoundation.org.