We were delighted to attend the 2013 Global Regional Asperger’s Syndrome Partnership (GRASP) Benefit last Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at the Downtown Community Television Center in New York to congratulate founder and former executive director Michael John Carley for his ten years of cultivating GRASP into the influential network of support groups it is today. Since its launch in 2003, GRASP has become a nation-wide organization that provides community outreach, support groups, advocacy, and education to adolescents and adults on the autism spectrum. The 2013 Benefit: “A Time for Change” also presented GRASP’s Friend and Benefactor Award, Distinguished Spectrumite Medal, and Divine Neurotypical Award to three prominent individuals for the work that they have done in the autism and mental health communities.
This year, GRASP awarded author Andrew Solomon the Friend and Benefactor Award for his book “Far From the Tree,” which describes the travails of families impacted by numerous diagnoses of deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, and more. His book “Far From the Tree” is considered one of the greatest tributes GRASP now has to pluralism itself. A native New Yorker, Andrew studied at Yale and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in psychology at the University of Cambridge. He has also written several other novels, including “The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression” and “A Stone Boat,” as well as pieces for the New York Times Magazine and The New Yorker.
The Distinguished Spectrumite Medal was awarded to Bob Hedin, who has contributed to GRASP’s national status by forming and leading the first GRASP network outside the tri-state area. As an individual with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), Bob recognized the need for support groups for adults with AS and launched a membership drive in 2004 for adults with AS in Philadelphia. Since then, his group has grown to over 250 members and boasts a lending library of over 125 books on autism.
The Divine Neurotypical Award was awarded to scholar and researcher Dr. Barry Prizant, who has been a longtime friend to GRASP. Dr. Prizant has had forty years of experience as a clinical scholar, researcher, and program consultant to children and adults with autism and related developmental disabilities. His most recent work involved developing the SCERTS® Model for children who have or are at-risk for social-communicative difficulties, and their families. Barry also co-facilitates an annual weekend retreat for parents of autistic children each year, and has organized the ASD Symposium for parents, educators, SLPs, OTs, and therapists to address the importance of understanding interests, strengths, and talents of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
We want to congratulate Michael John Carley on the incredible work he has done with GRASP and as a spectacular human being. We know he will continue to do amazing things.
For more information about the history and mission of GRASP, visit their website at www.grasp.org.