Connecting Atlanta Autism Communities: Doing Together What No One Organization Can Do On Its Own
The Atlanta Autism Consortium, Inc. (AAC) is a Georgia Non-Profit, tax-exempt, Corporation under Section 501 (c) (3) of the internal Revenue Code. The AAC is dedicated to connecting individuals and organizations around autism, sharing diverse perspectives and developing effective partnerships.
The AAC brings the spectrum of perspectives and interests concerning autism together in a safe and constructive environment. We aim to foster better understanding and cultivate multifaceted collaborations among the wide variety of autism community stakeholders in the greater Atlanta area, including researchers, clinicians, educators, advocates, families and individuals with autism.
The whole of Atlanta’s autism efforts is greater than the sum of its constituent parts, thanks to the efforts of the AAC.
AAC Vision and Values
We strive to sustain a vibrant consortium that fosters an active and effective Atlanta autism community, through our values.
- Collaboration: To accomplish more together;
- Diversity: To welcome constructive perspectives in a safe forum;
- Knowledge: To grow our collective understanding of autism in its fullness;
- Impact: To sustain positive contributions to all concerned.
The AAC began informally in 2008 as a group of researchers working in diverse areas relating to autism and belonging to the various Atlanta academic Institutions, including Georgia Tech, Emory University, Georgia State University, as well as relevant clinical and research organizations based in Atlanta and connected to autism, including Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and its newly acquired and renamed Marcus Autism Center, the Centers for Disease Control and its National Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD), the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, and the Emory Autism Center. Initially, the goal of the Consortium was simply to build familiarity among various stakeholders and to create a forum where various topics of interest could be discussed openly and the research community could begin to appreciate the value of its diversity.
Two important outcomes resulted within the first year of the AAC. First, through the encouragement of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, the Consortium was asked to assist in defining a long-term vision and research plan for the newly acquired and renamed Marcus Autism Center. The Consortium played an instrumental role in defining what the Marcus Autism Center could do to improve its research and clinical impact, culminating in the commitment to recruit an internationally renowned leader, Dr. Ami Klin. Second, and spurred by regular open monthly meetings, our informal membership began to expand to include teachers from public and private schools, therapists and other clinicians, families, and individuals on the autism spectrum. What began as a communication forum among researchers was recognized as having value to the whole community connected to autism.
Over the years, the AAC has served to give Atlanta a more unified identity in the autism world. Atlanta has indeed experienced a tremendous upsurge in its national reputation and is now seen as a city concerned with improving the lives of persons affected by autism through commitment of resources linking research, clinical, educational, business and community activities. Quite simply, the Consortium in a few short years has helped to establish Atlanta as a leading force nationally and internationally, and this has been done in large part due to the mostly volunteer efforts of its members. As of mid 2014, there were over 500 participants registered on the AAC electronic mailing list and who are primarily affiliated with over 30 different local organizations. The Consortium does not represent those organizations, and it does not intend to compete with them. Instead, it is aimed at providing a much-needed glue across the individuals and their organizations, taking a lead on efforts that are important to the community but that no single organization or person are able to lead. In addition, the Consortium helps to strengthen the mission and activities of related organizations by increasing awareness and promoting connections between organizations that are complementary. Over time, the result has been the development of an organization (AAC) that is a quiet and effective force to galvanize different stakeholders to recognize the value of working together to achieve more positive results.
The AAC was founded by Dr. Gregory D. Abowd, a Professor at Georgia Tech and parent of 2 sons with autism. Dr. Abowd ran the organization on a volunteer basis until 2011, when funds from the Marcus Autism Center allowed the Consortium to hire a part-time Executive Director, Dr. Anne-Pierre Goursaud, herself an autism researcher at Yerkes National Primate Research Center/Emory University and Part-Time Faculty at Georgia Gwinnett College. An Advisory Board, including motivated scientists, clinicians, educators, a parent and an individual on the autism spectrum, helped oversee governance issues and to plan for the sustained health of the Consortium. We established Special Interest Groups to allow subsets of the Consortium membership to focus efforts on specific topics outside of the regular monthly meetings. In September 2012, the Consortium incorporated in the State of Georgia and in 2013 obtained the official status of Georgia Non-Profit Corporation under Section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
The AAC NEEDS YOU! Though we are a very lean organization, the long-term sustainability of the AAC depends upon financial stability. Our operations are currently entirely covered by donations from private individuals, foundations, fundraising events and annual membership dues. Please go to the JOIN tab or RENEW MY MEMBERSHIP tab to contribute to and benefit from the AAC.
You can also donate online through our website HERE, or you can give us a check in person or send a check via postal mail: c/a Atlanta Autism Consortium, 1932 Oak Grove Rd NE, Atlanta GA, 30345. (To receive a receipt, please provide an email or address)
AAC Special Initiative Groups (SIGs)
To facilitate the development of more focused and fruitful activities relevant to cohesive subsets of Consortium members, the AAC has developed a process to form Special Initiative Groups (SIGs). Since individual organizations may not be able or motivated to support these mission-specific activities, it is suitable for the Consortium to take the lead.
SIGs are focused efforts formulated by a subset of Consortium members to pursue a mission-specific activity. The AAC includes the following SIGs:
1) Autism Awareness and Education through the Arts (active since 2013): The goal of this SIG is to provide awareness and acceptance through education of the general public to the autism condition using the arts as a popular medium and teaching tool.
2) Leadership Training and Social Networking For and With Young Autistic Adults (active since 2015): The goal of this initiative is to build an active community of young adults members of the AAC.
3) Research Collaborations: The purpose of this SIG reflected the initial activities of the Consortium, to facilitate and improve scientific communication and research collaborations between scientific members of the AAC community. This SIG is currently seeking interested members and leaders.
4) Policy and Insurance Reform (active from 2013-2015): The mission of this SIG is to propose a plan to help reform Georgia’s insurance laws to provide improved insurance coverage and treatment for autistic people. This SIG was a key player in the drafting and ultimately passing of the “autism insurance reform SB 1”, better known as Ava’s Law, in 2015.
5) PreK-12 Education: The purpose of this SIG is to empower people living with autism and other similar disabilities through their educational experiences. We seek to engage all relevant stakeholder communities involved in educating individuals with autism from preK through high school. This SIG is currently seeking interested members and leaders.
More details on the Special Initiative Groups and how to join them are provided HERE.
AAC Members Affiliations
AAC individual members are affiliated with many autism-related organizations in the Atlanta Area. These organizations include the organizations listed above (PLEASE NOTE that this list may not be complete as new AAC members register every day).
Disclaimer: The AAC does not promote or endorse any particular form of therapy, treatment/medication, service provider, school, university or any other autism related services, organizations and individuals. The AAC does not represent or speak for any of the organizations with which members are affiliated.
Special Partnerships with Atlanta Organizations
The AAC SIG on “Autism Awareness and Education Through The Arts” has developed a special partnership with the CDC, specifically the National Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD), the Autism Society of GA and the Autism Foundation of Georgia, to organize an annual public event, held at the CDC during Autism Awareness month, promoting awareness of autism and bringing autism education to the general public, focusing especially on the positive aspects of the Autism Spectrum.
The AAC receives donations from anonymous donors, including members of the AAC, to support our mission and activities. If you want to contribute, please go to the DONATE NOW tab and/or to the JOIN tab.
In 2015 and 2016, the AAC received a grant from the Autism Society of Georgia to promote efforts in advocacy and supports for adults with autism.
In 2015, the AAC received a gift from the Autism Foundation of Georgia to support our mission.