Update #5 ·

Your Petition -- and 678 signatures ! -- have been sent to Easter Seals, NH

Dear friends -- all 679 of you!

This morning I sent our petition and your signatures to Larry Gammon, President and CEO of Easter Seals NH along wtih the following cover letter.  (My apologies for the fact that some of the formatting is rough).

September 24, 2013   

Dear Mr. Gammon,   

 This letter is accompanied by 678 signatures from people who care deeply about autism services in New Hampshire.  They are parents, grandparents, therapists, teachers, and neighbors of the now 1 in 88 children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  They have experienced or helplessly watched first-hand how difficult it is to secure appropriate services and supports here in the Granite State and how critical it is to have a professional dedicated to assisting them in this process.   

Last June, Easter Seals part-time Autism Support Specialist in Dover, NH left Easter Seals to help her husband start a family business.  No plans have been announced to fill this vacancy.  More recently, the full-time Autism Support Specialist in Manchester was told that her position would no longer be funded by Easter Seals, and her employment was abruptly terminated.  

The Autism Family Support Program at Easter Seals has been of tremendous value to NH families impacted by an ASD.  Over the roughly seven years that this program has existed, the specialists offered numerous training opportunities, recreational events, and support groups for parents, grandparents, and other caregivers.  Here is a sampling of their work:   · 

  • In collaboration with the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) Program at the University of NH and the NH Council on ASD, Easter Seals Autism Support Specialists created the Certified Autism Support Specialist (CAPS) program, which trained more than 25 parent-to-parent volunteers about the complex issues surrounding ASD and about NH’s service delivery systems.      
  • Easter Seals Manchester Autism Specialist was one of the very few “lay people” invited to present regularly at the NH Police Academy, where more than 300 cadets have undergone a two hour training in safety issues related to ASD.      
  • Thanks to local registration drives staffed by Easter Seals Autism Specialists, hundreds of families have accessed the alternative 911 registry program for their loved one with ASD who may not respond appropriately in an emergency situation.    
  • The Easter Seals online autism newsletter, which was created by Easter Seals Autism Support Specialist in Dover, was forwarded to more than 1000 NH families and was widely relied upon for its weekly summary of key developments in autism research, relevant news, and upcoming events.    

 Most important of all, the Easter Seals Autism Specialists maintained the only phone lines in NH where a parent new to a diagnosis of ASD or a crisis involving a family member with ASD could receive information, referral, and options counseling.  Other groups that typically provide this service simply do not exist in NH or do not have the necessary expertise in autism.  Equally important, because the Easter Seals Autism Support Specialists were themselves parents, they brought unique insight and credibility to their work assisting families.    

Healthcare and human service professionals give a good deal of lip service to practicing “family-centered care.”  Easter Seals, however, truly put family at the heart of its autism program here in NH.  To the autism community, Easter Seals was seen as something more than a treatment clinic or an educational service.  Easter Seals was a place that “got it,” that understood the profound impact that ASD has on each family member and on the family as a whole.   

While we appreciate that Easter Seals plans to maintain some events and support groups, the heart of the Autism Family Support Program was the day-to-day outreach and care provided by your Autism Support Specialists.    

 We respectfully ask that you reconsider your decision to eliminate this valuable resource.  

 With all best wishes,     

 Kirsten M. Murphy   

 cc.  James C. Bee, Chair, Board of Directors, Easter Seals, NH   

       Ben Gamache, member, Board of Directors, Easter Seals, national

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