Roxbury youth helps May Institute promote autism awareness on the MBTA
– If you ask Tashina Hall of Roxbury if someone she loves has autism, she will respond with a resounding “yes”! Her 19-year-old son Jahmeel was diagnosed when he was 3, and she is excited about helping May Institute raise awareness about autism during April, National Autism Awareness Month.
May Institute is a nonprofit organization that provides educational, rehabilitative, and behavioral health services to individuals with autism and other special needs. Every April for the past five years, the organization has created a powerful public awareness campaign that has been displayed throughout the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) system.
This year’s campaign theme is “Does Someone You Love Have Autism?” – Jahmeel is one of six children and adolescents from communities across Massachusetts being featured. Commuters will “meet” these children via posters and car cards in subway stations and on subway cars, buses, and commuter trains throughout the MBTA this month.
“My family is so excited,” says Tashina. “We can’t wait to see Jahmeel’s picture on the buses and trains. I’m glad we can participate in the campaign. I want people to know what autism is and encourage them to get more information about the disorder.”
With autism rates that may be as high as one in 50 for U.S. school children, more and more families like Jahmeel’s do have a loved one with autism. Here in Massachusetts, more than 13,000 school-aged children have been diagnosed with the disorder. It occurs in all races, ethnicities, and social groups, and is five times more common in boys than in girls.
“Our awareness campaign has enabled us to give the public an inside look at autism,” says May President and CEO Lauren C. Solotar, Ph.D., ABPP. “Through the years, these campaigns have been very well received, and we are grateful to all of the families of the children and young adults who have shared their personal messages.”
“With the dramatic increase in the prevalence of autism over the past decade, it is critically important that we promote early diagnosis and get credible information about effective, evidence-based treatment options into the hands of families so they can make well informed decisions,” says Hanna Rue, Ph.D., BCBA-D, Executive Director of the National Autism Center, a program of May Institute. “The awareness campaign on the MBTA is helping us do just that.”
Autism is a developmental disability that occurs in one in every 88 children. It is a neurological disorder that affects the development of the brain, causing difficulty with communication, learning, and social interaction. Autism is one of several autism spectrum disorders (ASD) that include Asperger’s syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS).
About May Institute
May Institute is a national nonprofit organization that provides educational, rehabilitative, and behavioral healthcare services to individuals with autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disabilities, brain injury, cognitive disabilities, and behavioral needs. The Institute also provides training and consultation services to professionals, organizations, and public school systems. At nearly 200 service locations across the country, Institute staff members work to create new and more effective ways to meet the special needs of individuals and families across the lifespan. For more information, call 800.778.7601 or visit www.mayinstitute.org.