The Story of MAC
Sandra Worth began building community partnerships to provide hands-on learning opportunities for skill training, social engagement, and career development for the adults within My Autism Connection to better navigate the community, and also to help those in the community see the needs and potential of the growing population of adults diagnosed with autism. Inspired by her son’s diagnosis, Worth saw the support resources beyond those available to school-aged individuals were sparse. She knew her son could experience greater life opportunities if there were more services to help him bridge the support from the structure of his school years to adulthood. Motivated to ensure her son had every advantage for transitioning into a fulfilled, happy adulthood and her courage to help other parents and autistic adults, My Autism Connection was formed. Sandra Worth is the founder and Executive Director of My Autism Connection (MAC). Driven by her son’s diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Worth saw the need for continuing support. Worth assembled the beginnings of MAC in Ft. Myers, Florida in 2012 with a small group of 3 adults, MAC’s first members, and within a few weeks grew to meetings of twenty-five individuals. To date, MAC continues to connect and evolve as the demand increases, as they are still one of the very few supports for autistic adults.
Currently serving southwest Florida with an office in Ft. Myers and a newly established office in Tampa, MAC is also expanding their online services to provide membership options for people worldwide.
Examples of MAC member activities include:
● Podcasting classes
● Driving instruction
● Career tours and job preparedness
● Virtual movie nights
● Creative writing and art workshops
● Cooking classes
Why MAC Needs Your Help
Due to COVID-19, the demand to provide a safe environment for the high-risk community that MAC serves has been heightened. To meet the needs of the Autism community, MAC has moved to a new location. Managing both virtual and small group gatherings requires the establishment of new protocols, additional personnel support, and personal protective equipment, which increases overhead costs. Aiming to make a tremendous impact on the lives of the adults in this area and surrounding areas, the new space will be used to teach skills towards independence while providing a safe space to foster healthy relationships. As MAC continues to follow CDC guidelines for small group gatherings, they chose this space for its ability to fulfill the needs of its growing community.
In order for MAC’s doors to open, the following needs must be met:
● Preparation (commercial disinfecting and sanitizing service, cleaning supplies, personal protective equipment, and security)
● Functional Restroom
● Member Space (training and activity room)
● Personnel Planning Space
Over 5 million adults or 2% of the general adult population in the United States are estimated to have ASD (CDC, 2020), yet only between 1%-7% of funding dollars raised for autism go towards programs that assist autistic adults. Florida ranks in the top four states where autistic adults live (CDC, 2020). MAC is a small, grassroots non-profit that does not receive state or federal funding and relies on your contribution to continue programming. If MAC does not receive monetary support, they will then have to turn prospective members away, due to the lack of funding.
“For autistic individuals to succeed in this world, they need to find their strengths and the people that will help them get to their hopes and dreams. In order to do so, the ability to make and keep friends is a must. Among those friends, there must be mentors to show them the way. A supportive environment where they can learn from their mistakes is what we as a society need to create for them.” – Bill Wong, Autistic Occupational Therapist
There is much work to do, but we are dedicated whole-heartedly to our mission. We welcome new members, community partners, and donors who wish to create a connected community dedicated to embracing the idea that all minds are equal and worthy of belonging.