Support & Service for Autism
ACT Today!—Autism Care and Treatment—is a national nonprofit organization with a mission to raise awareness and provide services and support to families to help children with autism achieve their full potential.
“What makes us unique is that parents apply for the treatment they feel their child needs, as they are the best qualified to determine that need,” says Nancy Alspaugh-Jackson, ACT Today! executive director and the single mother of a 16-year-old son with autism.
“We provide real help and treatment today, while some organizations focus on simply awareness or research,” she says.
For instance, the organization’s programs provide assistive technology, social skills, medical treatments, special needs summer programs, safety supports and behavior therapy.
“We have provided grants to over 1,400 families, [with kids that] range in age from very young children to teens,” Alspaugh-Jackson says.
Many of these grants can be life-changing. For example, a nonverbal child may be able to communicate for the first time with assistive technology.
“Wandering or elopement is very common for children with autism, and drowning is the number one cause of death with children on the autism spectrum,” Alspaugh-Jackson says. “So providing a fence can literally mean the difference between life or death.”
The organization also offers a special program for the Latino market called ACT Today! Espanol, as well as a program to aid military families called ACT Today! for Military Families.
Established in 2005, ACT Today! was formed by a group of concerned parents and Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh, the founder and president of The Center for Autism and Related Disorders.
“Dr. Granpeesheh realized how difficult and expensive it was to provide treatment for their own children—on average about $65,000 a year—and wanted to make therapy and care accessible to families who could not access it or afford it,” Alspaugh-Jackson explains.
The 13th Annual Denim, Diamonds & Stars for Autism Gala on October 7 will draw hundreds of guests this year who will gather in an effort to provide direct care and treatment to underserved children with autism. The event will take place at 5:30 p.m. at the Four Seasons Hotel in Westlake Village.
The event has evolved from its beginnings as a backyard boots and jeans barbecue to a formal red carpet event with corporate leaders, celebrities, dignitaries, press and Southern California community members.
Honorees include the ACTivist award, presented to an entertainment figure who exemplifies ACT Today!’s mission. Past ACTivist honorees include Tom Bergeron, Nolan Gould, Howie Mandel, Brian McKnight and Olivia Newton-John.
“There is also a Golden Cowgirl Award given to a community activist and a Visionary Award for those who are furthering the mission of ACT Today!” says Alspaugh-Jackson, further adding that the evening will include performances by entertainers who are on the autism spectrum.
The ultimate goal of ACT Today! is to introduce and help facilitate ongoing treatment by providing the necessary resources—including referrals, funding and guidance—to individuals with autism and their families.
“Studies indicate the importance of treatment and interventions, yet sadly many children must go without due to financial restraints,” Alspaugh-Jackson says. “ACT Today! strives to provide necessary services so each child with autism can reach his or her highest potential.”
The reality of raising a child with autism—including economic challenges, daily stress of juggling treatment and therapy, and the uncertainty of a child’s future—can be overwhelming, she adds.
“Many of our families must make the difficult choice between providing for basic needs for their families, like putting food on the table, or providing treatment for their children,” Alspaugh-Jackson says. “A large percentage are single parents, who shoulder the burden of caring for their children alone, and many have multiple children on the autism spectrum.”
ACT Today is located at 509 Marin Street, Suite 123, in Thousand Oaks. For more information, call 818.340.4010 or visit Act-Today.org.