This month's charity spotlight features ASPEN®, the Asperger/Autism SPectrum Education Network, a volunteer 501(c)3 organization, based in Edison, New Jersey, which was founded in 1997. ASPEN's mission is to provide families and individuals whose lives are affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders such as Asperger Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder and High Functioning Autism (ASD's) and Nonverbal Learning disorders (NLD's) with:
- Education about the issues surrounding the disorders
- Support in knowing that they are not alone, and in helping individuals with (ASD's) and (NLD's) achieve their maximum potential and
- Advocacy in areas of appropriate educational programs, medical research funding, adult issues and increased public awareness and understanding.
ASPEN also provides a physical and emotional place where individuals, parents and other family members can receive support and guidance, and professionals can receive education in order to improve the lives of those with ASD's or NLD's.
ASPEN has chapters throughout New Jersey, including Union County and one in Wyoming. Chapters are run by parent volunteers with a child on the autism spectrum, who give tirelessly of their time and energy to help individuals with ASD's or NLD's and their families. Lori Shery is the President and Executive Director. Among ASPEN's many group activities are discussions of family issues; support for fathers and spouses and concerns relating to adults with ASD's or NLD's; social activities for teens and social activities for adults.
ASPEN holds two national conferences each year in New Jersey featuring the most prominent names in the field — its 46th conference will be on Sunday, April 19, 2020. ASPEN also offers in-service training for school districts; workshops and presentations to parents and professionals; assistance to families in finding services; and an online Resource Directory.
ASPEN has provided information on ASD's to all psychologists, public and private schools in New Jersey; training for first responders on recognizing individuals with ASD's; and seminars on assisting individuals with ASD's or NLD's to succeed in college and the workforce.