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By Jodi Murphy
Interview with Jodi Goldberg, Founder of Blooming with Autism
I’m so happy to feature Blooming with Autism because this organization focuses on the positive side of autism which is what the ‘Autimism’ movement is all about. I caught up with founder, Jodi Goldberg, to find out more about her version of positive autism advocacy.
Why did you start Blooming with Autism?
I started Blooming with Autism because I felt and still feel that a child with autism needs to be exposed to many different types of therapy in order to bloom. My daughter was a child who spun, no eye contact, tantrumed continuously, covered her ears with loud noise, covered her eyes if she was over-stimulated, spoke when she was 4, potty trained not too much longer after that, rocked to calm herself and many other typical characteristics of autism. Being exposed to so many different types of therapy, she is doing extremely well. She continues to have speech therapy, behavior therapy with her sister, and social skills therapy. Families who cannot afford these priceless therapies need support to get them so their children can bloom too!!
I started in March 2011 as a national charity.
Would you highlight the three areas of your focus—grants, advocacy services, and speaking engagements?
For the past three years I’ve been focusing on raising money to give grants to families who cannot afford to pay for the necessary therapies and therapy tools. I have been the only one working for BWA because we are not bringing in enough money to pay anyone a salary at this time. With my background in elementary education, I have been mentoring other parents via email or on the phone and have loved it. But it just has not been enough, which is why we are now looking into doing speaking engagements to reach more people. In November 2013, Candi Spitz came on board as our Vice President and she is volunteering her time. Candi was the national spokesperson for a larger autism organization. She is fantastic with marketing so we have gotten quite a few sponsors in just a short period of time. And with her experience with advocacy and mine with mentoring, we will also be moving toward focusing on a lot more advocacy.
You were inspired by your daughter…can you share how she is “blooming?”
When I was naming the organization I wanted it to represent how a person can change. How a person can move forward; almost like a caterpillar going through metamorphosis. This is the way I view my daughter. The core of her is the same, but she is changing; moving forward. She is taking what is put in front of her and learning at her pace. This is the “blooming” that I am referring to. “Blooming” will look different for every child/person. Which is why each parent/guardian chooses the therapy or therapy items because they know their children best. This will help them move forward; become more functional. We are looking to help people progress.
What has been the most rewarding part of your work so far?
I would say there are quite a few rewarding things for me. I am naturally a giving person so being able to give to somebody in need fulfills me as a human being. Another rewarding thing is getting updates on how children we sponsor are progressing. Once I realized what needed to be done to help my daughter, it gave me a need to share what worked. This is what I was meant to be doing. I wish I could explain it better than that.
I’m sure that there have been many, but is there one special moment you can share that really illustrates the value of Blooming with Autism?
I wish I could pick one special moment that illustrates Blooming with Autism. But each time we receive a picture of a grant recipient, it illustrates the importance of what we are doing. There is a name and a face to the people who are receiving our help.
What’s the BIG dream for BWA?
The goal at BWA is to unite the autism community and provide the tools, resources, awareness and advocacy necessary for our families affected by Autism. We need adults with autism mentoring children with autism. We need to be a positive community working to help each other, regardless of the child’s abilities and behaviors on a given day.
Is there anything coming up in the near future that you’d like to tell us about?
We are constantly having fundraising events. We have a few that are online events, which can be seen on our FACEBOOK page. This is what helps get the word out about Blooming with Autism and raises funds to pay for the necessary therapies and therapy items. We need help in this area. We are on so many social media sites and need more people sharing our events and mission. Right now we are asking everybody to donate just one dollar and mail to BWA. We are hoping to create awareness; as well as raise funds
If someone is in need of your services, what is the best way to contact you? Are there specific procedures?
If somebody is in need of our services, go to our website at bloomingwithautism.org. The grant application is in a PDF file. That needs to be submitted via mail with the other qualifications. Grants are on a first come, first serve basis. The family must make under $60,000 a year. The diagnosis must be submitted on a doctor’s letterhead. And a public release form is signed and submitted. All of these details are on our website.
Making a donation is also on our website. The funds go straight into our paypal account. Or if somebody prefers to mail in the donation, that is wonderful too.
Finally, if readers leave with only one impression about BWA from reading this interview, what would you like it to be?
I hope people view Blooming with Autism as an organization that is positively impacting the autism community. We are passionate about making a difference.
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With a network of affiliates across the United States, the Autism Society is the nation’s leading grassroots autism organization. Their mission is to increase public awareness about the day-to-day issues faced by people on the spectrum, advocate for appropriate services for individuals across the lifespan, and provide the latest information regarding treatment, education, research and advocacy. Contact and join a local affiliate and get involved! To find the affiliate nearest to you, click on your state below.