ANSWER started in 2005 as a true grassroots movement. Our founders, “the Mothers Theresa”, met because of an ‘incident’ (many of you parents who have a child with Asperger’s are familiar with these). Theresa Gustafson’s son Anthony was diagnosed with Aspergers at age 7 in 1997. In 2000, Theresa Namie’s son Ryan, was diagnosed with Asperger’s. Both boys participated in the Fraser Specialized Social Skills program for Asperger’s Syndrome. The ‘incident’ that started it all was when Ryan bit Anthony in class. The ‘Mothers Theresa’ met and found understanding. Being of like minds and aware that they were dealing with children that are unique yet had similar challenges, they immersed themselves into the world of Autism and their non-profit ANSWER was born.
In 2005, ANSWER began with support groups for parents, caregivers, educators and professionals to advocate, support and learn more about Asperger’s. In 2007, ANSWER partnered with Friendship Ventures to create a camp experience designed specifically for young people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). ANSWER provides training for camp staff in understanding and dealing with the challenges of our unique population. We also provide scholarships for campers. This camp has been hugely successful and has had increasing participation.
Through discussions in our support groups and our advocacy activities, ANSWER discovered that there is a gap in services and a need for a structured transitional skills class geared specifically for youth with Asperger’s Syndrome. After careful evaluation, we created a transition program for young people with Asperger’s from ages 16 through 21 and with the help of Dr. Jed Baker, the “Transitions for Life” class was developed. We have had enormous success with this class and many stories of encouragement and accomplishment from its alumni.
ANSWER continues to grow and provide new programs and outreach as the need grows. As our children age we are encountering additional challenges they face with employment, housing, relationships and dating. We are committed to evolving and developing new partnerships and programs to provide additional support for the people we serve.
Asperger’s Syndrome is one of our nation’s greatest medical, social, and educational challenges. In fact, it is the fastest growing developmental disability in the United States. It may soon affect more Americans than any other disability. That is why we will continue to advocate and support individuals and families affected by Aspergers.