Families gathered at Downtown Park in Redmond for the annual Day Out for Autism event on April 14. This is the first year Washington Autism Alliance and Advocacy (WAAA) hosted its event in Redmond.
“We really wanted to be right on our own doorstep and really integrate ourselves into the local community,” WAAA program advancement lead Miriam Chilton said about the event. “[We] wanted to make sure that everyone here knew that we’re all about.”
WAAA is a personal advocate and legislative champion for children and adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other developmental disabilities (DD). According to its website, the organization helps families access ASD and DD health insurance benefits, effective services in schools and supportive community-based services — regardless of their financial situation. WAAA acts as a bridge to gap the health and education policies that exist with educators, politicians and medical providers who want to support these policies but don’t always succeed in doing so. WAAA serves all of Washington state.
The Redmond-based nonprofit organization was founded out of personal necessity by Arzu Forough, along with four other families in 2007. Upon moving to Washington, Forough said she lost insurance for all autism coverage for her two young children. Forough said she noticed that other families were struggling just like her.
The annual event was created as an opportunity for families to bring their ASD and DD children without having to worry about acceptance for their children and also to raise community awareness about autism.
The sixth annual event included a fun and resource fair, various performances, a walk and more. The annual walk represents commitment to the autism community.
“The purpose of today is really about bringing people together for a sense of community and celebrating how awesome all these kids and young adults are,” Chilton said at the event. “I think people who have children with [ASD and DD] are conscious that their child is different but at this fair, everyone can come together and feel relaxed and welcome.”
For Rebecca Wildman and her son Luke, 2, attending the event for the first time was reassuring. The new Redmond resident said her son was recently diagnosed with autism.
“It’s definitely reassuring that there’s a niche where we can come together and where [Luke] can be more accepted,” she said. “It’s [been] hard to find things that he enjoys so being here without worrying about any judgment or anything is nice. Everybody here understands.”