Golisano Charity Donates $1 Million to FGCU Autism Network

A $1 million grant from the Golisano Foundation to the Community Autism Network at Florida Gulf Coast University will advance initiatives to improve the quantity and quality of resources available to people with autism spectrum disorders, their families, and caregivers. related practitioners.

The network was created about a year ago as part of an interdisciplinary effort within FGCU’s Marieb College of Health & Human Services to conduct research and develop educational and clinical models that could help alleviate a shortage community services – especially for people with autism who are aging. school programs and on the labor market and independent living. Nationally, the prevalence of autism has skyrocketed from one in 150 children in 2000 to one in 44 in 2021, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

The Golisano grant will help the FGCU train more students and healthcare providers, initiate more research, and provide pro bono diagnostic and skill-building services, according to director Annemarie Connor. An Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy at FGCU, Ms. Connor started the Community Autism Network based on ongoing research and assessment of community needs.

“FGCU has this potential to be a hub for autism,” Ms. Connor said. “The focus will be on using the grant with our core mission of building an autism-friendly, knowledgeable workforce and addressing issues such as long waiting lists for the diagnosis of autism in the region,” Ms Connor said. ” I am delighted. I think this will really trigger a lot of change in the region.

The Golisano Foundation was established in 1985 by Tom Golisano, founder and president of Paychex Inc., a leader in the payroll, human resources and benefits outsourcing industry.

His local philanthropy also includes the Golisano Children’s Hospital in Southwest Florida and the Golisano Children’s Museum in Naples.

Shawn Felton, acting dean of the Marieb College of Health & Human Services, sees Golisano’s investment as validation of what the FGCU’s Community Autism Network is doing.

“Buying with what we do and providing philanthropic support says a lot about what they see and what they believe in,” he said. “With this comes a responsibility that we take on with great quality. But that’s exactly what a comprehensive regional university should do – meet regional needs.

The Golisano grant will enable the Community Autism Network to make several improvements: refocus faculty and staff time toward more autism-related work; paying licensed physicians or psychologists to provide on-campus diagnostic training courses for students and practitioners; and hire postdoctoral fellows to conduct research and develop new programming models that can be tested and implemented in the community.

All will benefit students in the many fields that interact with the autism community, such as social work, occupational therapy, special education, psychology, counseling and rehabilitation sciences. Beyond them, the outreach of the FGCU Autism Community Network extends to a growing population of students diagnosed on the autism spectrum on campus; many face social and mental health issues that prevent them from earning a degree. ¦

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