First My Story
I would like to say that I am a mom with a child with Autism. My son is my pride and joy and I wouldn’t change him for the world. When he was diagnosed, the odds of having a child with Autism was 1 in 4,000. Now it is 1 in 180. In the early 1980's, I had no idea what the word Autism meant, much less how to understand and cope with it. I wanted my son to experience all of the things a typical child would experience and that’s what we tried to focused on. By age 15, there were no longer any activities for him to participate in and it seemed that everything had a "cut off" age. An old friend asked me, "Where are all the 15 year old Autistic boys?" I began to wonder this myself! Were they all in front of a TV or stemming somewhere in their homes? I believe it’s very important to have exercise, socialization, participation, a sense of friendship, accomplishment and most of all - fun! I went to my local recreation center, (The Jim Beech Recreational Center in Ocoee, FL) and asked them if I could have 1 hour for 1 day of the week to start a program for kids with disabilities; but not just Autism - all disabilities, all ages and include all family members. The City of Ocoee generously granted my wish and we started the Autism & Related Disabilities Gym Program. They even bought me equipment to get started! This started my journey to form a place where people can come together and not feel alone and scared. To know that there are others out there that are going through the same things, feeling the same feelings, asking the same questions, feeling the same frustration. We started out by delivering handmade flyers to doctor’s offices, therapy clinics, schools and universities. The local newspaper, The West Orange Times, generously began advertising for us and continues to do so to this very day. I'm excited to say, we are growing by the day! I am very proud of the fact that we do not charge any membership fees or any fees at all, as we do not pay out administrative fees. Everything is done by program support, donations, grants, and hard work. The City of Ocoee supports all we do with our families and I am eternally grateful.
The Autism and Related Disabilities Gym Program believes in community involvement, understanding, and most importantly, awareness. We work hard to raise money to provide life skill building activities that are fun, yet educational. We are 100% non-profit and work tirelessly to raise the money needed for our therapists, learning supplies, toys, field trips and events. We rely on the generosity of our community to volunteer and help us raise the funds needed to provide our services! Everything we collect and raise goes into our program to help children and their families with Autism and related disabilities.
We are a small non-profit, but growing very fast! We are very proud to say we have no membership fees and there is no cost for our events. This is done with the support of our families, donations and grants. Everyone coming together to build this unique program. We hold family outings and events for socialization, support, and fun throughout the year.