Special Needs Network, Inc. (SNN), a grassroots autism advocacy organization serving South Los Angeles, will host a series of events throughout the month of April to help increase awareness of autism and the issues surrounding those impacted by the disorder. According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism impacts 1 in 50 children and appears to have its root in early brain development, although there is no known cause or cure. Since its inception, SNN has worked with more than 30,000 children and families and is known as South L.A.’s go-to organization for autism advocacy and serving under-served populations, particularly the African American and Latino communities.
“With the CDC’s recent report announcing an increase in the rate of autism from 1 in 88 to 1 in 50 among children, SNN’s collection of events comes at an ideal time to continue building awareness about a medical condition that impacts more than one million children across the country,” said SNN officials. “African American and Latino children are diagnosed two to four years later than their non-minority peers and often have more difficulty accessing much needed diagnostic and intervention services.”
The event takes place on April 12 and 13 with a two-day conference that is free and open to the public. More than 2,000 people are expected to attend. The event, SNN’s 7th Annual Tools for Transformation conference, will be held at the Radisson Midtown at USC on Friday, April 12 and the Junior Blind of America on Saturday, April 13. On Friday, a legislative breakfast featuring several California elected officials will kick off the event and will address national issues including bullying, gun violence, and school safety.
Guest speakers include Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas. Congresswoman Janice Hahn and state Senator Curren Price Jr. will join Ridley-Thomas. Participants will be able to weigh in on the issues presented and interact with the speakers.
In addition to the legislative breakfast, the Saturday conference will include workshops with nationally recognized experts on developmental disabilities, learning disabilities, autism and ADHD. There will also be an anti-bullying summit specifically for students and young people. Conference attendees will also be able to attend a resource fair where they can connect with service providers, disability rights attorneys and other special needs professionals.
In addition to the conference, SNN will kick-off Autism Awareness Month with the SNN Run for Autism, a 5K run and walk at the upcoming Hollywood Half Marathon on Saturday, April 6.
“Autism Awareness Month gives organizations like ours a chance to shine a bright light on the issues that families, particularly those in underserved communities, face on a daily basis to access quality healthcare and educational services for their kids,” SNN officials said. “With state budget cuts and the increasing autism rates, now more than ever, families need help. Each project we have throughout April focuses on increasing access to services and helping push forward critical legislation that will help California’s special needs children.”
For a full list of SNN’s activities and events throughout April, visit specialneedsnetwork.org. SNN also invites anyone with questions or concerns about autism and other developmental disabilities to contact their office at (213) 389-7100 for information on available resources, programs and service providers.