July 2021
Don't forget to grab your last minute ticket to Ocean Breeze Waterpark's annual Sensory Friendly Night this Thursday on July 22nd from 4-8 PM! All you need to do is follow this link to purchase your ticket and make sure you use promo code: FACT.
Donors & Granters - Family Fun Day Sponsors
FACT is so grateful to our generous sponsors who made our Au-Some Family Fun Day such a success! Without the generosity of great organizations like Maxim Healthcare Services who sponsored the free ice cream from Gerald's Ice Cream Bar; the Virginia Autism Foundation who sponsored free pizza from ShoreBreak Pizza & Taphouse; and the Autism Society of Tidewater Virginia who co-sponsored the entertainment with FACT, including our Hungry Hippos Chow Down Inflatable from Virginia Beach Inflatables, the talented balloon twister from Vertical Kids, and of course the life of the party DJ Jessie. Thank you all for everything you do for our local autism community! FACT could not ask for better and more generous partners!

FACT would also like to offer a special thanks to Shawn Eure-Wilson for speaking to our group about Jamile Hill's Law for Justice which extends an alert system already in place for children with autism to adults with autism, and covers situations where the Amber Alert and Ashanti Billie Alert systems would not apply. If you would like to learn more about Jamilie Hill's Law for Justice click here. Now that the law is in effect in Virginia, Shawn is working to get a federal law passed which would extend the alerts for missing adults with autism nationwide.
Mover & Shaker - Stanton McDuffie
One of the best ways individuals in the community can help FACT fulfill its mission to provide amazing and affordable programs for kids and young adults with autism is by helping fundraise. FACT relies heavily on donations (85% of our revenue each year) to provide the quality of programming we are known for year in and year out. Dedicated individuals willing to take up the fundraising mantle to help us fulfill our mission are crucial to the sustainability of our organization as they allow us to reach new potential donors and raise awareness of FACT in the community.

Stanton McDuffie is a 21 year old Norfolk Academy graduate who is currently studying at the College of Charleston. He decided that during his free time this summer, he wanted to put together a charity wiffleball tournament to benefit FACT: The First Annual Yellow Bat Classic. Stanton and his friends have been working tirelessly to put together a fun filled day of wiffleball starting at noon on August 7, 2021 at Bay Colony Park. When I spoke with Stanton and asked him why he wanted to dedicate his summer to putting together a fundraiser for FACT, he talked about how everyone has been touched in some way, shape, or form by autism and as someone who grew up in Hampton Roads, he wanted to focus on a local organization. Further, FACT's emphasis on social and recreational programs fit in nicely with the social and recreational nature of the wiffleball tournament.

Stanton and his team have been working tirelessly to put this event together. A number of teams and sponsors are already on board but there are still plenty of open spots! Here is how you can become a part of The Yellow Bat Classic:

  • Volunteer! If you'd like to help but are unable to donate money or play you can always help by simply giving us some of your time! We will need help setting up and breaking down, reffing the games, selling concessions, etc. We are also looking for a PA system to avoid the cost of renting one so if you have one let us know. Feel free to reach out to Stanton via email or on The Yellow Bat Classic Instagram.

  • Sponsor! See the flyer below regarding sponsorship levels.

  • Spread the word! Be sure to check out The Yellow Bat Classic Instagram Stanton set up and share information about the tournament to friends and other groups that might be interested!
Interested in sponsoring the event? Check out the sponsorship information Stanton put together below:
Gotta Love this Kid - Justin Mack
Justin Mack is one of our campers who has made an astounding amount of progress over the last couple of years. Justin started coming to Camp GonnawannaGOagin' when he was eight years old. We at FACT have watched Justin grow up over the last half decade and been there with his mom and family during the ups and the downs.

Justin, like a number of kids on the spectrum, started developing behaviors of aggression and destruction when he was in the 5th grade. He is minimally vocal and many of these behaviors likely stem from his inability to communicate when he is experiencing discomfort or is upset. Not being able to convey what is bothering you to the people around you can be extremely frustrating and led Justin to act out in aggressive ways. Justin's behaviors got so severe that in 2019 he actually busted one of the windows on FACT's van during summer camp. Despite these behaviors, FACT and our dedicated staff continued to work with Justin and bring him back to camp because we believe that no child with autism should be turned away for behavioral reasons. We made the necessary adjustments to make sure Justin was still able to have a great camp experience in a safe environment. Justin's mom always looks forward to when Justin gets to go to camp as she can always tell the difference in his demeanor and how happy he is to be seeing his friends.

Through a great network of support, Justin has made a lot of progress over the last couple of years. We were so excited when Justin was back at camp for week 1 this summer and got through the whole week with no acts of aggression or destruction. Justin's progress and the dedication of his mother and the rest of his support group is an inspiration to us and we were so happy to see his smiling face again this summer.

Justin's mom was particularly grateful that our awesome counselors, Mr. O and Big Justin (who is now shorter than Little Justin as you can see in the 2017 to 2021 comparison), always take such great care of her son and encourage him to try new things. This year, Mr. O and Big Justin got Justin to wear a life vest for the very first time ever to go tubing. Mom mentioned her family loves to kayak and fish but they were never able to go with Justin before because he refused to wear a life vest. She is ecstatic Justin picked up this and many other new skills during his time at Camp GonnawannaGOagin' this summer.

The story of Justin's progress and development is one his mother hopes will bring hope to so many other families who may be dealing with similar issues.
Upcoming Programs and Events
Camp Gonnawannagoagin' is in full swing and the kids are having a blast getting back out into the community!

Make sure to check back in to our August newsletter for updates about our Fall Programs.
Surfer's Healing Volunteers Needed
Our friends over at Surfers Healing are looking for volunteers (ages 18 and older) that would like to help out with various positions during their camp on August 20th and 21st at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. Surfers Healing provides a unique surf camp for kids with autism and if you are able to, please check out the sign up page here for more information.
Casting Call for Upcoming Documentary
Northern Pictures is making a TV documentary series in the US about dating and relationships featuring people on the autism spectrum. Here is their message about the documentary:

“We are looking for SINGLE people, living in the United States, who are on the autism spectrum and are interested in dating. You may have no history of dating, or you might be an experienced dater, feel free to get in touch and say hello.

We are also looking for ANYONE who is open to dating someone on the spectrum. We are also looking for COUPLES or people who have just started seeing each other, even if you’re not yet official! Either one or both of you might be autistic.

There are many misconceptions out there about autism, one of them being that people aren’t interested in finding love. We want to show that this isn’t true, and to help people understand more about neurodiversity. We aim to make an honest, sensitive, and insightful documentary series.

If you or someone you know might be interested in speaking with us, please send an email with a brief description of yourself, where you live, and a photo to: production@northernpictures.com.au
Autism Research Opportunities
Our friends at CHKD are doing a research project to assess the amount of stress and difficulty that the pandemic has placed on families dealing with autism. If your child is 2 years to less than 5 years of age, click here. If your child is 5 years to less than 22 years of age, click here.

The Cleveland Clinic is still enrolling for their clinical trial to provide support for families of children with autism spectrum disorder and sleep disturbances. The treatment is delivered remotely via telehealth system, so families may live anywhere in the United States.  
They are recruiting young children (ages 2 up to 7 years) with autism spectrum disorder and sleep disturbances. Participants are randomized either to 5 sessions targeted parent training program for sleep problems or 5 sessions parent education program where they will be provided knowledge relevant to parenting a child with autism. A previously NIH funded study demonstrated the parent training program was superior in improving sleep and bedtime problems. This study is testing whether this holds when delivered via telehealth. All families will be compensated for their time and participation. The possible benefits of participation in this study are the improvement of the child’s sleep and bedtime behaviors.

If you are interested in participating please contact autismresearch@ccf.org or call 216-448-6392.